Officials vow to re-examine bar ordinance after meeting attendants express opposition

By Stacy Jacobsonsjacobson@abcnews4.comCHARLESTON, S.C. (WCIV) -- City officials vowed to re-examine a proposed midnight-closing ordinance after attendants at a public meeting overwhelmingly opposed the idea Thursday.The auditorium at the Charleston Museum steadily filled up after the start of the 5:30 p.m. meeting. Mayor Joe Riley and Charleston director of planning, preservation and sustainability Tim Keane began the meeting with comments about the goal of the ordinance.

"Our concern is there is a capacity of the business district to be able to hold a number of bars and restaurants that are open late. If the trend continues, you will create streets that are dead during the day. The entertainment district is not a single-purpose district," Riley said.

"Downtown is in great demand for all different kinds of employers that are high-wage jobs - in the technology industry, but in other industries. They want to be downtown. We are concerned about damaging the place they want to be. Streets dominated by bar use is not a good economic development tool for us," Keane said.Every person who responded spoke out against the ordinance at the hearing.

"I think an ordinance like this would be profoundly unfair to a young person trying to start a new business. It would protect my interests. I'm here to stand up for the little guy so he has an opportunity to make his way in life and have a piece of that American dream," said Jim Curley, owner of AC's Bar and Grill, an Upper King Street business.After the meeting, Mayor Riley said he had still heard from a lot of residents who support the intention of the ordinance. However, he said officials would consider alternatives.

"One of the concepts we've been considering, rather than what we first proposed, is a moratorium of some period of time to allow further study," Riley said.Councilman Bill Moody, who voted in favor of the ordinance at the first reading in May, said the ordinance had more unintended consequences than he initially considered."We're hearing what's being said and we're working on it. We might just come up with a moratorium and get rid of the ordinance. We might be able to do it through business licenses," Moody said.Curley said the city had failed to enforce existing laws that would stop more bars from opening."Existing city ordinances requiring enough parking and sidewalk space available in order to open another business should be sufficient for the city to address this problem," he said.The planning commission will still consider the ordinance at its next meeting August 20.

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