CHARLESTON, SC - Tuesday, Charleston Mayor Joe Riley released a statement defending the city's tour guide ordinance.
The statement comes after a federal appeals court ruled requiring Washington D.C. tour guides to get a license was a violation of free speech. Tour guides in Charleston must pay $25 to register for a temporary license, $45 for 492-page book "The City Of Charleston Tour Guide Training Manual" and $50 to register to take the exam. Guides also pay fees to maintain a license.
Riley explained in his statement why he thinks the city's tour guide program is important.
"We believe our tour guide regulations are valid and they work very well. People visit Charleston largely for its history, architecture, and landmarks. They expect and assume they will be given correct information, and our tour guide regulations are designed to achieve that goal. Our ordinance requires a tour guide to be knowledgeable of where and at what times tours can be conducted, which is essential because Charleston is a living city with many residential areas woven within the fabric of our historic district. If the tour guides are not regulated, we have no way of receiving complaints and taking action to correct a guide's misconduct or the spreading of false information."
Bonnie Cooper is one of Charleston's 450 licensed tour guides and has been giving tours for 26 years. She said there's it takes a lot of pride that goes along with being a guide because it takes so much hard work.
"You have to study a lot," Cooper said. "The fact I was born and raised here I think made it a little easier for me. People who come here from other places and have to learn even the street names, I think is miraculous."
Rick Mosteller is the co-owner for Gray Line Bus Tours and agreed with Riley's statement.
"I was disappointed in the decision because I feel like licensing tour guides really guarantees a certain amount of integrity for the visitor."
"If you want to show people around the town as your guest, that's fine, but if you want to be a guide for hire, I think there should be some regulation for it," Cooper said.
The city's legal team is still reviewing Charleston's ordinance for possible changes, but said in the meantime, the current licensing process will continue.