MYRTLE BEACH, S.C. (WMBF) - Restaurant and bar owners across South Carolina are calling on Gov. Henry McMaster to lift the 11 p.m. “Last Call” order ahead of New Year’s Eve.
It was put in place back in July in response to a statewide spike in COVID-19 cases.
The South Carolina Restaurant and Lodging Association (SCRLA) sent a letter to McMaster. In it, the association claims restaurants are low risk when it comes to spreading the virus based on contact tracing data released by the state of New York.
The letter went on to say the restaurant and hospitality industry is “suffering as a result of inconsistent, restrictive mandates.” This includes the Last Call order, which prohibits alcohol sales after 11 p.m.
“We usually do drink promos, all types of fun stuff for that day, so it kind of sucks that we can’t do it right this year,” Billy Cargill, general manager of Beach House Bar and Grill, said
With New Year’s Eve being one of the most profitable nights for restaurants and bars, some business owners in Myrtle Beach believe the restriction may put a damper on this year’s celebrations.
“Why would all that extra money to have to shut everything down at 11 o’clock before the clock strikes 12 anyway?” Doane Widenhouse, general manager of Barrell Sports Bar and Grill, said.
“We’re going to get 60% of people to come here around 9 o’clock and an hour and a half later turn them away,” Cargill said. “Kind of defeats the whole purpose of coming to a bar.”
SCRLA said the National Restaurant Association estimates more than $240 billion will be lost in sales by the end of the year. Widenhouse said he’s lost 50% of revenue because of the order.
“The little guy like me ... we don’t have any power or say so, but when you get a big organization like the South Carolina Restaurant Association standing up for us it’s a good thing,” he said.
While restaurants want to see the order lifted, Cargill said he understands the pandemic has made it tough on everyone, including McMaster.
“I love the idea of it,” Cargill said. “I just know he’s trying his best to keep everybody safe - customers and employees alike - so it’s kind of hard to judge from his perspective.”