New downtown Charleston businesses could face 3-year moratorium

CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCIV) -- City of Charleston officials are reworking the controversial downtown midnight closing bar ordinance that saw overwhelming disapproval from the public.

Instead, city leaders are looking to amend the proposed zoning ordinance with a three year moratorium. New bars and restaurants opening in the outlined downtown "Entertainment Districts" of East Bay, Market, and upper King streets would be allowed to stay open past midnight, but they wouldn't be able to serve alcohol.

Those in support of the moratorium say it helps ensure bars don't overcrowd growing parts of the peninsula.

"We want to make sure it's an environment for everything, can't be just one thing, that's what this concentration of bars could lead to," Charleston Director of Planning Tim Keene said. "We have to protect the quality of life on these streets. We can't let a certain use get out of control, especially like this. Late night is out of control."

Those opposed to the proposal say the moratorium and ordinance are essentially the same thing and both are bad for business.

"Majority of businesses in Charleston are against the ordinance or a moratorium. Either one of them are not good news for us," said Charleston Crab House owner John Keener. "The retail hadn't been waiting 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."

Members of the public will have the chance to voice their opinion at Wednesday's meeting in the first floor boardroom of the 75 Calhoun Street building. That meeting starts at 5 p.m.

The City Planning Commission is expected to take a vote on the three-year moratorium and give their recommendation to Charleston City Council.

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