Compared to previous options that drew heated community backlash, the one-year moratorium on new bars suggested by the City of Charleston Planning Commission on Wednesday seems reasonable. Sober even.
The moratorium would apply only to certain new establishments in proposed entertainment overlay districts along East Bay, Market, Meeting and King streets that stay open past midnight and serve alcohol.
Earlier this summer, Mayor Joe Riley, along with Police Chief Greg Mullen and planning director Tim Keane, proposed a three-year moratorium in response to what they felt was out-of-control growth in the city's nightlife.
The Planning Commission thought the moratorium too long, and rightly so. The commission's proposal goes to City Council for a final decision.
Mayor Riley is correctly concerned that the nightlife scene in certain parts of town has reached a critical mass and has begun to negatively impact surrounding neighborhoods. Fights like those on King Street that killed a man in April and put another in the hospital in August don't yet constitute an epidemic, but they are extremely troubling. And nobody likes being awakened by shouting in the street, having their plants watered by strangers or dodging vomit on the sidewalk.
On the other hand, some problems are to be expected when residential areas abut commercial districts, particularly when several thousand college students are in the mix.
So it's perfectly reasonable to expect that the city take steps to manage the situation before things get further out of hand, especially when people start getting hurt.
Encouraging a diverse array of businesses throughout the peninsula is a worthy goal. Entire districts dominated by bars would be unpleasant and potentially unsafe in addition to being economically unfeasible.
Even bar owners would undoubtedly agree that keeping neighborhoods safe, clean and friendly both during the day and in the wee hours of the morning is good for business.
But the city should treat the food and beverage industry with appropriate respect and avoid snuffing out a key component of the cultural revival that has landed Charleston at the top of so many lists of accolades.
Far from dives, many of the bars in the affected districts also offer award-winning cuisine and generate big bucks for the city while employing hundreds of people.
Given the complexity of the issue and the importance of balancing business and tourism growth with community needs, the one-year moratorium seems like a solid compromise.
It should give the city plenty of time to consider its options and reach a long-term solution for keeping the peninsula lively but livable.
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