Charleston County Council is putting off until Dec. 1 an ordinance that would require establishments that sell alcohol to close between 2 and 6 a.m.
The ordinance, which would apply in the county’s unincorporated areas, originally was set to go into effect Oct. 1. But County Council approved the new start date in the second of three readings Thursday. The group will take the final vote Oct. 17.
Council members voted 8-1 to hold off on the law’s implementation because they learned it was inconsistent with laws in some of the county’s smaller municipalities.
Councilman Dickie Schweers was opposed because he didn’t think the county should wait until Dec.1. It should have moved forward with its original Oct. 1 starting date, he said.
The county’s current code requires establishments to stop selling alcohol at 2 a.m., but they may remain open past 2 a.m. as long as no beer or other alcohol is sold.
Some council members have said that requiring bars and nightclubs to close after 2 a.m. is a strategy to prevent crime.
The county’s larger cities, Charleston, North Charleston and Mount Pleasant, already have ordinances similar to the one the county is trying to adopt. But many of the smaller cities and towns don’t have such laws.
County spokesman Shawn Smetanta said the county decided to give those municipalities more time to consider adopting similar laws.
County Councilman Henry Darby, an opponent of the ordinance, said that implementing it would put county business owners at a disadvantage if nearby cities and towns don’t fall in line. Customers will simply go to an establishment in a nearby town that allows such businesses to remain open after 2 a.m.
Darby voted in favor of the delay, but said he would not vote for the ordinance on its final reading.
He’s opposed to the plan even if all of the county’s cities and towns fall in line, he said. “It represents government intrusion.”
Darby said business owners are being held responsible for early-morning crime, and he doesn’t think that’s fair. “You can’t blame the school if there’s a shooting there,” he said.
Reach Diane Knich at 937-5491 or on Twitter @dianeknich.