Glynn County: No booze on ‘Frat Beach’ during UGA-Florida game weekend

Glynn County has banned alcohol on 'Frat Beach' for the weekend of this year's Georgia-Florida football game. (Stephen Morton/AP Photo File)

Glynn County has banned alcohol on 'Frat Beach' for the weekend of this year's Georgia-Florida football game. (Stephen Morton/AP Photo File)

On the weekend of the Georgia-Florida football game, St. Simons Island’s East Beach becomes “Frat Beach,” an open-air party teeming with thousands of highly inebriated college students.

But the Glynn County Commission earlier this month said no more. For the second straight year, it is banning alcohol on the beach during gameday weekend, which this year is Oct. 29-30. Its primary goals: stanching the spread of COVID-19 cases that have ravaged the county and keeping students on the beach under control.

“The binge drinking is so bad, some of them don’t know where they are, and some of the girls don’t even know someone is touching them, molesting them,” said Commissioner Cap Fendig, who pushed for the beach booze ban during the University of Georgia Bulldogs versus University of Florida Gators showdown.

Glynn County Commissioner Cap Fendig. (Photo: Glynn County Board of Commissioners)

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Fendig, who runs a boating tour and a trolley business, has seen the spectacle of debauchery firsthand, having used his trolley to take students from the beach back to their lodgings.

“Some of the kids, especially the girls, know they’re going to get so drunk they write their hotels and room numbers on the insides of their arms,” Fendig said. “We love to have the students come down here and root for the Dawgs, but being a college student doesn’t allow you to binge-drink and do things that wouldn’t be allowed in any community.”

A fairly common sight on Frat Beach is a college student walking around holding a milk jug filled with grain alcohol and Gatorade — and later vomiting.

The crowd last year was not nearly as large as in past years, when up to 8,000 people would pack the beach. The shrinkage in 2020 was attributed to a good-sized police presence, plus allowing only 18,000 fans to attend the game in Jacksonville, Florida, to ensure social distancing.

This year, there are no restrictions on crowd size at TIAA Bank Field, which has a seating capacity of 67,800.

In addition to COVID-19 concerns, the trial of three men facing murder charges for the Feb. 23, 2020, killing of Ahmaud Arbery will be ongoing during the big game’s time frame. Jury selection begins Oct. 18. And the city of Brunswick and Glynn County are bracing for possible demonstrations, with officials worrying about police being stretched too thin.

Meanwhile, emergency rooms at the hospital in Brunswick have been so overwhelmed with COVID-19 cases, anyone suffering from alcohol poisoning on Frat Beach might not be able to get immediate medical attention. Early this month, Glynn was one of the worst counties in the country in terms of COVID-19 infections.

As of Wednesday, 271 county residents had succumbed to the virus. A mobile morgue has been stationed outside Brunswick’s main hospital, and more than 2,000 National Guard troops were dispatched there to help overwhelmed medical staff.

“We’re hoping it won’t be that bad here this year,” said Cesar Rodriguez, a real estate developer who lives near the entrance to East Beach. “It’s a big party for everyone and you can tell a good number of them are really inebriated. For those of us who live near the beach, it’s not a pleasant experience.”