Charleston Police Chief: Ordinance will keep King Street from turning in to Bourbon Street

By Stacy

CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCIV) -- Charleston Police Chief Greg Mullen is tired of his city being compared to another one known for partying.

"If I hear one more person compare King Street to Bourbon Street... That's what we want to prevent. It's not clean, it's not appealing," Mullen said.

He said downtown Charleston needed to have a mix of nightlife as well as retail, businesses, and being a good place to live. He feared Upper King Street was close to being out of balance and out of control, so much so that the police department in its current capacity couldn't handle it.

That reality led him to sign a letter in support of an ordinance that would force new bars that open in the downtown entertainment district to close at midnight.

The entertainment district includes all of King, East Bay, and Market streets and a part of Meeting Street.

"With all the development up King Street, it would be very difficult to continue to manage that with the resources and current services available in the city," Mullen said.

Russell Robinson just opened Channels, a "surfer lifestyle" clothing store, on Upper King Street. He felt lonely on his block, surrounded by restaurants and bars, he said.

"There needs to be more retail down here," he said.

Most of his foot traffic came from restaurants, he said. And he has heard the New Orleans comparisons.

But none of that bothered him.

"I have so many customers of people who are leaving the bar at 2, 2:30 a.m.," Robinson said. "They see the window displays and come back in that morning. They say, 'Oh I saw that last night. I have to have it!'"

But the bar saturation can also become dangerous.

Charleston sidewalks are already a tight fit. And when bars add in the ropes for lines outside the bar, Mullen said officers had an even bigger challenge.

"[Customers are] walking out in to the street. You're starting to see an increase in the number of arrests we have," Mullen said.

In fact, police said they arrested 179 people in the downtown entertainment district in May of 2013. They said that number almost doubled to 336 arrests in the district in 2014.

"We've had more assaults, more disorderly conduct, significant amount of drunks in public there's a significant amt of noise violations and vandalism in neighborhood," Mullen said.

City council still needs to approve two more readings of the ordinance in order for it to pass. Officials planned to hold a public input meeting in the next 30 days, they said.

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