Neighbor hoping city will close bars sooner: '[Five Points] feels like the Wild West'

COLUMBIA, SC (WIS) - They're old and young, male and female, black and white, and all of them say they've had enough.

"It is very, very – it's angering – for my wife not to be able to work in her flower bed because she can smell that somebody has peed in her flower bed," said Olufemi Olulenu, who lives on Pine Street near Five Points.

Recently, the group of neighbors who live near Five Points gathered to share their message – and stories – ahead of a Tuesday morning public hearing on the issue they assembled to address.

"We had one instance – a neighbor right across the street from me – somebody picked up a cement urn that she had potted plants in walked up on the back of her car and crashed it through the roof," said April Lucas, with the University Hill Neighborhood Association.

"We have had two of my neighbors who have had drunk, very intoxicated young men try to break into their houses," added Kit Smith, who lives in Wales Garden.

"Late at night, it feels like the wild, wild west," Elizabeth Marks, who lives in the Robert Mills Historic District, concluded.

All said some Five Points bars are destroying their neighborhoods by staying open later than the usual 2 a.m.

Right now, according to a list sent to WIS, there are 21 bars across the city that have After Hours Operating Permits, which allows for the extended hours. Eighteen of those are in the Five Points area.

"By allowing bars to stay open all night long – having all-night bars – 18 out of 21 of them in the city located in the heart of these neighborhoods – increases crime and makes everyone feel unsafe and actually be unsafe," Smith said.

"Obviously, there have been some cases of guns involved too, but even crime that's not malicious is still a crime when you're asleep or not expecting someone to come onto your property," added Lynn Shirley, who lives in Hollywood – Rose Hill.

"You cut back the hours, you cut back the problem," Lucas concluded.

That's just what Councilman Howard Duvall is hoping to do. An ordinance he's drawn up would end the special permits.

"I hope that we will be able to get three more votes that will remove these extended hour permits," said Duvall, who joined the neighbors in their meeting with WIS.

Duvall's goal could be tough to achieve. The ordinance has plenty of detractors who say it unfairly targets bars outside Five Points, would be bad for business, and wouldn't work anyway.

One source who's familiar with Five Point's bar scene said many layoffs will happen if the ordinance passes and tens of thousands of dollars in revenue will be lost.

He also believes the neighbors' claims of rampant crime are "embellished" and that crime could potentially increase if bargoers are all released at once at 2 a.m.

Oluleno doesn't buy that.

"Well, Five Points needs to grow up," he said. "They need to put the quality of life above profits."

At this point, it's unknown when the city council will debate and vote on Duvall's proposal.

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