The city of Charleston's controversial plan to impose a midnight closing time on new peninsula bars got another look on Thursday because some City Council members have had second thoughts. It was a good idea to hear from those who will be affected by the ordinance.
How can you tell? Several hundred citizens showed up at the Charleston Museum auditorium to speak on the issue, and to listen to the debate.
Which goes to show that it would have been an even better idea for City Council to have involved the interested parties at the outset, before taking its initial 12-1 vote.
Councilman Dean Riegel, who voted "no" on the proposal, argued for more input from the hospitality industry from the outset.
"They put their blood, sweat and tears, and their money, into it," Mr. Riegel said. "It simply isn't fair to attempt such a sweeping change without including them in the conversation."
Certainly the conversation was one-sided before the first vote, with council relying on city officials, including Mayor Joe Riley and Police Chief Greg Mullen, who said that the downtown area had reached a "tipping point."
There is no question that the booming bar scene along upper King Street has created new challenges for the police department, in particular.
And it has created more undesirable late-night and early-morning activity in nearby residential neighborhoods.
Indeed, residents of affected neighborhoods spoke out in favor of the new bar closing hours on Thursday.
Downtown neighborhoods have been dealing with a rising degree of activity from college students and resurgent commercial activity, particularly along King Street. Council has to heed their concerns and make accommodations for their quality of life.
But commercial interests who would be affected by the new ordinance raised legitimate questions about how it would create an uneven playing field for those who would do business on the peninsula.
The ordinance also would restrict the hours of stores with off-premises alcohol sales.
Getting a full report from the citizens is part of council's job, particularly on an issue that has created so much debate.
Only then can council be assured of making a deliberate, informed decision.
Maybe that's what will happen in this instance. Mayor Riley and other city officials said the ordinance would be revised before it comes up for a second vote.
And those changes should reflect council's more informed review of public opinion.
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