Whether or not Charleston's tourism industry is at a "tipping point" and which areas of the industry are causing it were the central topics Thursday night at the Tourism Advisory Council's public forum.
Many who lined up to offer their input rejected the city's notion that the number of bars on upper King Street and Market Street had brimmed over their limit.
Jamie Price, a local developer who helped establish the monthly Second Sunday on King Street event, opposed the city's proposed ordinance that would require future bars and restaurants in entertainment districts to close at midnight.
"This is a European-type city with a phenomenal night life," Price said. "This is not what this city is about. This city is about life, and that's what they're taking away."
Seaton Brown, an admissions counselor at the College of Charleston, said if patrons have to leave a bar before midnight "they won't want to go home, they'll want to go to the bars that are open until 2 a.m., which adds to the traffic and mobility problems that King Street is already suffering from."
City Planner Tim Keane said that the growth of bars are stifling retailers on Upper King and that neighborhoods nearby need retail.
Other residents at the meeting said the "tipping point" of the tourism problems was on the other side of town.
Robert Ball, a physician and professor at C of C, said the biggest concern was the amount of soot emitted from cruise ships idling at the terminal.
"We are at a tipping point. We need to take action on ... shore power for cruise ships," he said. "I would urge the city to partner with SPA and Carnival to enact whatever you need to ... to transform a line along the front of Union Pier where cruise ships will be docked to reduce health risks to our residents on the East side."
Carrie Agnew, a resident of Legare Street who has long been an advocate for cruise ship regulations, went a step further and questioned whether a larger cruise ship terminal should be built at the edge of the peninsula's historic district.
"This city has tipped over," she said. "I do not see how we could have a terminal that is twice the size of what we have now with twice the number of parking spaces and not have a lot more problems with tourism. Why is it being placed directly next to a historic neighborhood?"
Keane and Riley also got an earful, not for the first time, about the need for more bike corrals along heavily trafficked streets, and more public bathrooms.
Alfred Ray, a longtime tour guide, said visitors often need bathroom breaks while touring historic areas such as White Point Gardens, and suggested that the private bathrooms at Hazel Parker Playground on East Bay Street be opened to the public.
"We have a public facility paid for with public money which has private bathrooms. Is that even legal?" Ray said.
Keane said Thursday's forum was the final "input-gathering session" of the Tourism Advisory Council's process to update the city's Tourism Management Plan. The council has also received feedback from the downtown neighborhood associations and it has conducted surveys about residential concerns with tourism.
Reach Abigail Darlington at 937-5906 and follow her on Twitter @A_Big_Gail
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