First reading of new Charleston bar ordinance passes 12-1

CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCIV) -- Charleston City Council voted 12-1 in favor of a new zoning ordinance along several streets on the peninsula.

The ordinance would require new bars and restaurants to close at midnight instead of 2 a.m.

All current establishments would be grandfathered in under the proposal.

The new entertainment zoning would include parts of Market, East Bay, King and Meeting streets.

The proposal was drawn up by Mayor Joe Riley, Police Chief Greg Mullen, and City Planning Director Tim Keane, but there are those who question the decision.

"I personally don't think it's going to change anything in the area. It's going to make everyone there have a one-up on potential new businesses," said David Debney, an interested business owner.

Councilman Dean Riegel was the sole nay-vote. He said the city restaurant association was not involved before the first reading.

Keane responded, saying the measure will now go to the planning commission where public hearings will take place.

Keane said he expected the ordinance would take several months before it returned to the full council for another vote.

Since Tuesday night's reading, an online petition and website have popped up for naysayers of the proposal.

The petition had 800 supporters at 5 p.m. Wednesday. The site shows that the petition was started by Blake Weisel and is called "Don't let Mayor Riley ruin Charleston's nightlife." It calls for councilmembers to kill the proposal.

And the new Charleston After 12 website comes with a companion Facebook page and Twitter profile.

Both sites say the new proposal would hurt business and the local economy.

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