Charleston County Council members approved a revision to the code of ordinances requiring all bars and nightclubs to close their doors between the hours of 2 and 6 a.m.
The county’s code previously allowed establishments to remain open past 2 a.m. as long as no beer or other alcohol was sold.
County spokesman Shawn Smetana said that rewording the ordinance closed a loophole that contributed to nightclub violence when defiant businesses remained open and continued to pour drinks into the wee hours.
The revised ordinance was adopted on June 18 and states the following:
Commercial establishments which allow for the on-premises consumption of beer, ale, porter, wine, and/or alcoholic liquors shall be prohibited from operating between the hours of 2 a.m. and 6 a.m.
Council members unanimously voted to approve the change, according to the Clerk of Council.
The ordinance falls in line with other municipalities, Smetana said, and will go into effect on Oct. 1.
Council member Henry Darby said that he initially was opposed to the revision. Darby eventually agreed to a compromise made by the board that gave establishments three months to prepare before the ordinance went into effect, he said.
“It’s too much government intrusion,” Darby said, adding that he was surprised other council members didn’t feel the same.
Darby said he understands that law enforcement could use the ordinance as a tool to curtail violence, but that he doesn’t want business owners to be unfairly punished in the process.
“One blames the business owner when these incidents occur, but a lot of it is beyond their control,” Darby said. “It’s almost like blaming the red light for having an accident. You’re blaming the bar owners and it’s not their fault.”