If you haven’t been following the latest Charleston kerfuffle, I’ll clue you in. The headlines are reading, “Mayor Riley, Chief Mullen Want To Close Bars At Midnight,” “Proposal for Bars/Restaurants To Halt Booze Early,” “Don’t Let Mayor Riley Ruin Charleston’s Nightlife!” Why all the fuss? Here’s what’s going on.
Yesterday, the Charleston City Council had a first reading of a new ordinance that Joe Riley, Chief Greg Mullen, and Tim Keane came up with to have bars, clubs, and restaurants in a proposed area, shut down at midnight. Not surprisingly, the proposed ordinance passed with an 11-1 vote. The next step is that the ordinance is supposed to go to a public hearing. (I’m hoping at this point it will be met with great resistance and the ordinance will be ultimately scrapped. But this is old Charleston that runs on the “Good ‘ol Boy System.”) People that work in the downtown area are freaking out. And they should be. If this ordinance actually passes and goes into law, then there are a ton of people affected by this. It goes well beyond just the food and beverage (F&B) industry in Charleston.
I’m going to lay out some of the obvious issues that I can think of that will arise from this proposal. (Personal Note: Chances are there are fallacies in what I’m about to state, and I realize this. I’m just laying ideas out in hopes that it will create discussion. I hope that others will add their opinions and insights either on this page or some other public forum in order to generate interest in this subject.)
Let’s assume that the ordinance will pass in its entirety, as written, without any amendments. Here is what I feel will happen:
- People tend to really get their drink on between midnight till last call. I get this info from simple observation, and I’ve talked with many club managers and owners as to when they sell the most drinks. (This is something important every DJ should know.)
- I see many club and bar patrons piss faced drunk at midnight. Most patrons I have talked to over the years, (Myself included) tend to start their nightlife fun between 8 and 10pm. If places were to close at midnight, then those patrons haven’t sobered up and are now stumbling around the streets or worse yet, driving home or to other bars that are outside the ordinance zone that will continue to serve alcohol.
- Losing key hours at these establishments will severely hurt businesses. Businesses will make less money. Less money means less income for workers. Less money means less tax revenue the city can collect on. And so on.
- Entrepreneurs looking to start new businesses in the area will now consider starting them up elsewhere. This is a pretty obvious one. Given the turnover rates of restaurants and nightlife spots in Charleston, I’m surprised that this wasn’t an instant deal killer to the ordinance. I mean theoretically, if I’m going to start a business, I can be right down the road from my competitor, they are forced to close their doors while mine remain open to collect their patrons. My business is already at an unfair advantage over my competition. It is stated that establishments that are already operating will be grandfathered in. But if I were an entrepreneur, why would I want to start a business that there would be an unfair advantage in the first place.
- They also extended the ordinance to affect grocery stores and gas stations. I’m sure whatever reasons you can foresee as this being just plain idiotic will suffice.
- A midnight cut off won’t stop people from partying. Nightlife will just move to more underground parties and the city will have less control. I’ve seen this happen plenty of times and I’ve DJ’d many events like this.
- This one hits close to home. DJs will become less in demand. I mean a bar or club isn’t going to pay the average of $200 (going rate for a 4-hour gig that I’ve seen around Charleston.) for two hours of work. (Most DJs start about 10pm in the area.) This doesn’t affect me so much, but I have a lot of friends who DJ as their only source of income. DJing already has it’s challenges that most folks don’t realize. They don’t need something else thrown at them.
Anyway, these are some points that I can immediately think of. Please feel free to add to this or correct me in any assumptions. If you want to take some action. I’m sure there will be a public hearing on this ordinance in the near future. Show up to that and voice your opinion. Also, there is an online petition going around. Feel free to sign that. As of right now 359 signatures are on it.
Here’s the proposed ordinance: