It is shocking how quickly we forget things in this 24-hour news cycle culture. It wasn't even 10 years ago that you couldn't give away commercial space on Upper King Street. Then something crazy happened, some entrepreneurs took a few calculated risks. These entrepreneurs opened bars like O'Malley's, the Silver Dollar and Beer Works.
The opening of these businesses that catered to the college-aged demographic we so quickly demonize served as the catalyst for the transformation of the Upper King Street area.
In the beginning you had to be careful walking in this area late at night. By demanding more as citizens and through the hard work of law enforcement these crimes have dropped significantly, further adding to the attraction of the area.
After reading the ordinance for 12 a.m. bar closings, it is clear that it is aimed to serve a select few. Noticeably, establishments with 20 or more dwelling rooms are not included in the first reading.
Well, isn't that very hospitable and convenient for the new hotels being built that they may continue to profit after so many others have risked financial ruin to rebuild a once dying section of downtown.
To the business owners who say they are unfazed by the proposed regulation, are you really so confident that complacency will not ultimately lead to your demise? What if your establishment is profitable enough that you want to invest in a new bar and restaurant?
The city will say "not so fast," and good luck with being able to compete with others open until 2 a.m.
How about if you want to sell the business after you've built it into something? Who will want to buy it when they discover the sale terminates the ability to stay open until 2 a.m.? Grandfather clauses are used very often to appease the current residents and owners yet they seldom are useful when it comes to the sustainability of long-term business growth.
Will this ordinance solve a problem that we are unsure even exists?
I would argue absolutely not. Let's think for a moment what happens when bars close at midnight.
There is no magic switch in a college person's mind that says, "OK, it's midnight, time to call it a night." On the contrary, if the bars close earlier then we will definitely see the resurgence of the time-honored house party that so many of your readers so fondly remember.
House parties are held in residential areas, including the same neighborhoods where so many of Charleston's most qualified complainers reside.
The police officers will be forced to respond to noise ordinance complaints at an alarming rate, which will further diminish their ability to conquer more important tasks. A noise ordinance violation can cost more than $1,000; it will become big business for the city in no time.
Part of being in a leadership role is making tough decisions about personnel and resources. As a frequent patron of the Upper King area I flatly disagree that so many resources are needed due to the influx of people to bars and restaurants in these areas.
Ultimately, I am forced to ask myself:
What is the motivation behind this ordinance?
Do our elected leaders really not understand that this will have a long-term impact on employment and business creation?
Do the concerned citizens who supposedly live above and around these establishments really not understand that earlier closing will move the party back into residential areas?
Do business owners in the overlay area really think that this ordinance will not impact them now and in the future?
Young people and entrepreneurial-minded people have built the Upper King area into a bright spot for our growing city.
To quickly forget who and what spurned this growth is disheartening to say the least, and to see the city try to take it away from the people who have built it up by passing more regulation is just the most recent example of how we have a habit of regulating ourselves out of competition in this city.
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