SUMMERVILLE — The last of the late-night drinkers in the Lowcountry are about to straggle home a little earlier.
Summerville is looking at requiring restaurants, taverns or private clubs that serve alcohol to close the doors at 2 a.m., joining most other municipalities and counties around Charleston. Businesses already are required to stop serving at that time.
In other business, a special Town Council meeting taking a second look at the town's proposed comprehensive plan ended Wednesday without a vote.
The early hours bar closing raised hackles in Charleston when the city proposed it more than six years ago. In Summerville, it's not likely to make as much noise as the revelers have.
"We've always closed at 2 a.m. I thought that was the law," said Bruce Woody, owner of the Ice House tavern. "Well, once you quit serving, you close. You know what I mean?"
Local governments have passed closing ordinances one by one since the state Supreme Court ruled that Charleston's was legal. Police had reported problems with what they characterized as a late-night overflow of imbibers from the city bars. Summerville first considered such an ordinance in
2003 but did not adopt it.
But the town has had more police calls since Charleston County and North Charleston passed their ordinances in 2008, said Police Chief Bruce Owens. Police have responded to more than 1,000 incidents among five taverns: "drinking, noise, traffic accidents, vandalism and assaults including stabbings and shootings," he said in a report to the Town Council public safety committee.
"It seems like Summerville is becoming the watering hole for the North Area," Owens told committee members on Wednesday. "The bottom line is the police department is spending a disproportionate amount of time around the watering holes."
The committee recommended the ordinance to the full council. If the measure is approved, it will become effective in June. First reading will be at the council meeting at 7:30 p.m. Wednesday. Business owners would be liable for fines of more than $1,000 per violation.
Woody said he had no problem with the closing, but he routinely has customers who aren't ready to leave exactly at 2 a.m. and he doesn't want anyone to drive who isn't able.
Owens said police would use common sense enforcing the law and issue verbal and written warnings before citing violations.
Meanwhile, in the Town Council special meeting, council members and planning commission members went back and forth for an hour over whether language in the revision of the town's comprehensive plan was strong enough to command changes be made in how development is handled and create new development such as a civic center.
But with council members still divided and an election looming Tuesday, in which two council seats are being contested on growth-related issues, no vote was taken. The plan will be put back on the agenda for the Wednesday council meeting following the election.
Reach Bo Petersen at 937-5744 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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