City Council taking first reading on measure to close some bars early

COLUMBIA, SC (WIS) - Your late night drink could soon be cut short. The City of Columbia is proposing an earlier closing time for bars and restaurants that serve alcohol.

City council will take first reading on Thursday that would force bars to close at 2:00am unless they meet several requirements set by the city. There's no doubt the ordinance would mean changes for Columbia bars, but opinion is divided over whether that change would be good or bad.

Bartender Will Green isn't happy about the prospect of having to jump through several new hoops in order to keep The Whig open past 2:00am. "It's just more red tape and bureaucracy for institutions that support the city," said Green.

Under the proposed ordinance, bars would have to close early unless they ban drinking contests of wet T-shirt contests, give all staff state-approved alcohol training, employ a security guard for every 100 people in the bar, and ban drinking outside.

Hospitality leaders say it will help quiet things down after a rash of fights and shootings in Five Points. "We think this is a viable solution and will help solve some of the problems Columbia has been facing," said Tom Sponseller of the South Carolina Hospitality Association.

But none of those shootings happened in bars or after 2:00am, and Green says bars are being unfairly blamed. "Some city council members are trying to turn the city against us," commented Green.

Green says the ordinance could also hurt people who get off work later than most. "Columbia is trying to push this idea of the 'creative class,' and some of those people are bartenders or servers who just want to get a drink after work like everyone else is entitled to," he said.

But the ordinance's supporters say it's a better compromise than forcing everyone to close early, no matter what.

Copyright 2011 WIS. All rights reserved.Copyright 2011 WIS. All rights reserved.