Last call! Council unanimously passes 2am bar closing time

By Logan Smith - email | bio

COLUMBIA, SC (WIS) - An ordinance that could close some Columbia bars and restaurants early has passed its final reading.

Columbia City Council members voted unanimously Tuesday night to approve the ordinance, which goes into effect on May 1. The ordinance will force all bars and restaurants that serve alcohol within city limits to close at 2:00am unless they meet several requirements set by the city.

Bars that wish to stay open past 2:00am must apply for an exemption to the law and meet some of the following criteria: a low incident rate of police calls and noise violations, specifically trained security guards, and bartenders trained through LRADAC.

Bars also won't be allowed to have contests that would cause patrons to "violate the public peace." The city attorney used wet t-shirt contests as an example.

"It's just more red tape and bureaucracy for institutions that support the city," argued bartender Will Green, who said the ordinance will hurt small businesses.

But the ordinance is a compromise over a stricter proposal from Councilwoman Belinda Gergel, which would only allow bars to stay open until 4:00am even with the exemption. Under the new ordinance, bars that receive an exemption can stay open all night.

The city will launch an education campaign to help bars understand the qualifications for staying open after law allows.

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