Charleston city officials to propose revamped bar-closing ban

By Stacy

CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCIV) -- Charleston City officials plan to propose a new bar "moratorium," after an ordinance that would shut down new downtown bars at midnight was widely criticized. They will present the moratorium at next week's planning commission meeting.

City officials' new plan is to propose a moratorium on new restaurants serving alcohol after midnight. The moratorium would still allow new establishments to open downtown. They could serve food after midnight, but not drinks.

"The moratorium would give us time to take all those ideas in to account and to maybe come up with other creative ways to address this issue of concentration of the bars," city planning director Tim Keane said.

Keane said there are currently four more bars set to open on Upper King Street. Downtown would be at risk if any more open after that, he said.

"That's part of this; that we don't suffocate out other kinds of retail, services and businesses that want to go to Upper King Street," Keane said.

A difference of opinion over the way the city gets mapped out spurred the debate. Keane and other city officials want to keep businesses and restaurants as part of downtown's neighborhoods. But others thought there should be entertainment districts, like the Market, East Bay Street and Upper King Street, reserved for nightlife.

"The majority of businesses in Charleston are against the ordinance or a moratorium. Either one of them are not good news for us," Charleston Crab House owner John Keener said.

Keener did not think the city needed to get involved.

"The retail hadn't been wanting to go up there because it hadn't been a safe area. It's becoming very safe. Natural attrition usually takes care of issues like this. We just need to wait and be patient," he said.

Existing parking codes should be enough to limit bars and solve the issue, he said.

But, sitting back was not an option for the city planner trying to ensure the future financial health of the Holy City.

The moratorium would not affect existing businesses or future restaurants that open in existing locations, officials said.

The planning commission will meet Wednesday, Aug. 20 at 5:30 p.m. at 75 Calhoun Street.