Midnight booze ban moves forward in Charleston City Council

Published: May. 28, 2014 at 3:37 AM EDT|Updated: May. 28, 2014 at 11:07 AM EDT
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CHARLESTON, SC (WCSC) - There was overwhelming support for an ordinance that forces future alcohol-based businesses to close their doors at midnight.

"I think you've now got the endorsement of City Council to go and say city, we need to understand what we've got, how we're going to deal with it and what the future is going to look like, and I feel like this is the first step," says council member Mike Seekings.

City officials say the ordinance is an effort to attract a variety of businesses to downtown. Mayor Joseph Riley, who voted for it, says we have enough bars and restaurants in a concentrated area. Dean Riegel was the only council member to vote against the ordinance.

"If we close the bars at 12, will those people simply go out to West Ashley and drink until 2-o'clock? So, I think it needs to be a far more embracing ordinance than just what we're doing."

The temporary ban spans King Street, all the way from Broad to Poplar and sections of Meeting and East Bay Streets. That midnight cut-off would only apply to future businesses that want to serve and sell alcohol.

"If we change zoning on you midstream, you're grandfathered in, and it goes with the property, not with the person. So, people who have businesses and properties, those can continue and you can abandon for three years and still come back as a grand fathered, non-conforming use."

The president of the Charleston Restaurant Association says there was little notice about Tuesday's vote. He says last year he was assured that businesses would be part of the dialogue early on.

"We were told at that meeting we would be in contact if there was any ordinance to do with the alcohol industry, which there has been no contact with the restaurants until yesterday," says John Keener.

The ordinance will move to the Planning Commission for a public hearing. It will then make a recommendation to City Council. Seekings predicts that the ordinance will look very different when it comes back for a second and third reading.

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