Restaurateur to Columbia neighborhoods pushing for 2 a.m. bar closure: 'Build a wall'

COLUMBIA, SC (WIS) - It began in the morning. It lasted into the afternoon.

Members of the City of Columbia's public safety committee took notes as dozens of people took the mic one-by-one.

"The longer the bars are open – good bars, bad bars, in-between bars – the higher the crime," said Kit Smith, who was first to take the microphone.

"We've seen too many ills happen because of capitalist greed," added Rev. Benjamin Cunningham.

Some of the more than a hundred people in the crowd – like Smith and Cunningham – showed up to support an ordinance that would close bars in Columbia no later than 2 a.m. Right now, some bars have special permits to stay open later, and some who live near Five Points say they feel the impact.

But the public hearing was dominated by the bars themselves and their allies.

"To say that the neighborhoods surrounding any entertainment district are full of antisocial behavior after 2 AM because of the businesses being open after 2 a.m. is ludicrous!" said the owner of Chickadees, Jeff Diehl. "The only other suggestion I have that might help is if we get a wall built around your neighborhoods and let Mexico pay for it."

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

"To me, it sounds like the problem is the kids and the alcohol, which we both know, nothing's going to happen with the alcohol. Kids these days are different. We can't get kids to stop eating tide pods," added John Love.

And college kids will still find a way to party even if the bars close sooner, said Sean McManus, who warned councilmen of more destructive house parties if the late night permits go away.

"If you get rid of those laws, and all the drinking goes to the house party, enforcing those laws becomes so much harder," he said.

Councilman Daniel Rickenmann, who chairs the public safety committee, told WIS his committee should make a recommendation to full council in early March.

At that point, the council could agree with the committee or do something totally different. But there will be more times for people to share their opinions before council votes.

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