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Charleston leaders considering changes to late-night ordinance on King Street

Published: Oct. 13, 2021 at 3:41 PM EDT|Updated: Oct. 13, 2021 at 6:26 PM EDT
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CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCSC) - Charleston’s city Public Safety Committee is considering changes to its late-night establishment ordinance.

Councilmember Peter Shahid says none of the proposed changes are final yet, but they are considering a few different proposals. One of those changes being considered is requiring all shops, restaurants, and bars on King Street downtown to close at the same time.

All shops, convenience stores, restaurants and bars would need to stop serving at 1:30 a.m and have people out of the door by 2 p.m.

At the end of June, Charleston City Council passed a new ordinance requiring all mobile food vendors shut down by 1:30 a.m. and stay 10 feet from the sidewalk, among other requirements.

Shahid says the goal now is to have everyone shut down at the same time.

Roy Neal is co-owner of El Jefe on King Street and he’s also on the central business district board.

“If there’s an idea out there that will help us and continue to make it more safe, every business owner is going to be in favor of that,” Neal said. “But, closing down just to close down because you want to get people off the street, I don’t know if that’s the best idea, but let’s discuss, and that’s what they’ll do.”

Back in May, Charleston Police also launched a new safety protocol, switching traffic to one-way traffic from Spring Street to the Battery on Thursday, Friday and Saturday evenings. They also eliminated nighttime street parking in this area.

Neal says those changes have been effective in improving safety and now he says council should listen to what business owners want before making any more changes.

“Not every business falls into a category,” he said. “If you sell beer and wine or liquor, well we sell beer, wine, and liquor and sell a lot of it… but we sell as a restaurant, we don’t sell it to the late-night revelry at one o’clock in the morning. But there’s another place that might do that.”

He says some businesses are modeled around being late-night businesses.

“So don’t just chop it all in and pull it in,” Neal said. “Then you also got somebody that might be selling beer at the corner store and if somebody wants to buy beer at 2 a.m. and take it home and drink it in their own home they should be able to do that.”

Another change being considered would require all places that serve alcohol be required to hire security personnel who are certified by SLED to begin electronically scanning IDs at the door starting at 9 p.m.

“If you’re forcing a business to hire somebody, then you’re just adding another cost to a business, which they’re going to have to pass on the customers,” Neal said. “So, I’m not really in favor of that proposal either.”

Shahid says the public safety committee plans to meet within the next two weeks to review the proposals and will have time for members of the public to speak about and share their thoughts.

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