Midnight bar ordinance focus of Thursday's public comment

CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCIV) -- After nearly two months since its proposal, the midnight bar closing ordinance will get official public comment Thursday night.

Members of the community will be able to ask City of Charleston officials why they want to close new bars and restaurants at midnight while existing businesses will be able to stay open until 2 a.m.

In the late-night ordinance's original memorandum to city council from Mayor Joe Riley, Police Chief Greg Mullen, and Director of Planning Tim Keane, it described the city as being close to a tipping point in terms of the late night and early morning "bar related activity."

"Too much of anything can be harmful and we think it is important to do everything we can to make sure we have moderated this level of activity to a degree that is reasonable for all concerned," the letter continues.

The exact level of activity and who the concerned parties are is not made clear in the document.

However, what is spelled out is that the renamed 'Entertainment District Overlay Zone' is where the new ordinance will take shape, which includes parts of Market, East Bay, King and Meeting streets.

In the new zone, several types of businesses are restricted from operating between the hours of midnight to 6 a.m., including food stores, gas stations, eating places with or without drive-through lanes, drinking places, and any other businesses that sell alcoholic beverages.

The next step for the ordinance is a public meeting set for Thursday night. Riley and Keane say they will present background, facts, and technical aspects of the ordinance followed by a period for residents to ask questions and give feedback.

The meeting starts at 5:30 p.m. in the auditorium of the Charleston Museum on Meeting Street.