COLUMBIA, SC (WIS) - The plan to close City of Columbia bars at 2 a.m is off the table for now. But on the table is something that's perhaps more comprehensive.
Months ago, Councilman Howard Duvall, spurred by neighbors' complaints of crime and mischief coming from Five Points, pitched the plan to end special exceptions that allow about 20 city bars to stay open beyond 2 a.m. His plan drew both sharp praise and criticism.
Released after a Columbia Public Safety Committee meeting Tuesday afternoon, a new, amended ordinance won't close bars at 2 a.m., but it will make it more expensive for bars to operate past 2 a.m.
To operate past 2 a.m., a bar will have to be operating at its location for two years. The bars applying for a permit to operate beyond 2 a.m. will also have to show they serve food to get a permit to stay open late.
The new ordinance would also give Columbia Police Department more teeth to suspend and fine violating bars – and some of those fines would be more substantial than what's currently in place.
It would also ban drink specials past 2 a.m.
"I think we've got to get to the table and talk realistically about the greater needs of Five Points, and particularly, the greater needs of our city. Is it a gun issue or is it a bar issue?" said Councilman Ed McDowell.
The plan is still in its early stages and will require a public hearing and multiple readings before it becomes city ordinance.
Councilman Daniel Rickenmann also expressed interest in holding an informal workshop to get more input on the newly amended ordinance before it receives a vote.
To see and view a copy of the draft ordinance, you can read it below.