Big bar crowds at closing time prompts city ordinance

Big bar crowds at closing time prompts city ordinance

CHARLESTON, SC (WCSC) - Crowd control at closing time. The City of Charleston is calling on the bar district on Market and King Streets to add more security after their establishments close. It's part of a new 'Late Night Entertainment Ordinance' introduced to city council members this week.

"It's kind of a different dynamic up here than it was three years ago," said Tim Maahs, owner of Charleston Beer Works. "Upper King is a different animal these days."

Introduced by Charleston Mayor Joe Riley and supported by police chief Greg Mullen, the first reading of the ordinance passed this week.

"It sounded reasonable to me," said Maahs. "I'm all for it. My number one goal is for everyone to be safe."

Maahs said chief Mullen called a meeting to speak with bar owners last week about the proposed requirements of the ordinance.

Specifically, the ordinance will require bars to close their doors and windows if music is played after 11 p.m.

It also reads someone must be present at the door at all times after midnight and bar personnel must clear the sidewalk in front of their establishments 30 minutes after closing.

The ordinance also calls for one security guard to be on duty for every 100 people in the bar.

"It's going to cut into our pockets a little bit to hire added security," said Maahs, but the bar owner sees it as a positive.

"Rather than be re-active and a problem happening, I believe the police department is trying to prevent any of that from happening," said Maahs.

But freelance food and beverage worker Chad Stalnaker thinks it's over the top.

"We seem to do quite fine with security on its own," said Stalnaker. "As a private business owner I don't think it's very fair to tell somebody how many people you have to staff or employ if incidents aren't occurring."

Stalnaker recently worked the door for AC's Bar and Grill on Upper King Street.

He says at closing time close to 200 people pour out of the bar. Those people mix with the large crowds leaving other areas and the bar district is 'chaos.'

"There are people everywhere, hundreds of them," said Stalnaker. "I'd say it's like Mardi Gras.

Mayor Riley told council members he thinks the ordinance will prove to be a great benefit to the city, it's businesses and it's people.

While the cost of the added security would come out of the bar's profits, the city is also trying to increase it's police presence in that area.

Chief Mullen is still waiting on word whether he will receive eight more officers to patrol the downtown bar district.

Council members must pass the ordinance through two more readings for it to become law.

If it's passed three times, failure of bars and restaurants to follow the guideline could jeopardize business licenses .

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