Panel wants safe, vibrant nightlife Will suggest creating a committee to monitor, shape city’s late-night scene

The city of Charleston’s Late Night Activity Review Committee will make recommendations on how best to manage night life in the city.

What started as a plan to rein in rowdy late-night revelers on upper King Street likely has morphed into a system to create and shape the entertainment scene citywide.

The city of Charleston in September put in place a one-year moratorium on new establishments that serve alcohol in the peninsula’s entertainment district while a 21-member committee studied the best ways to manage late-night activity.

The committee will make presentations on its conceptual recommendations at three public meetings Tuesday.

“The moratorium has served its purpose,” said Frank McCann, one of the committee’s co-chairmen. The committee isn’t going to recommend it be continued.

Committee members realized during their meetings that upper King Street quickly is changing as new businesses, hotels and developments open in the formerly gritty portion of one of the peninsula’s main streets, McCann said. The bars that are packed with sometimes intoxicated young people who pour out onto King Street at 2 a.m. likely will fade away as the area becomes more upscale.

But, he said, late-night activity will continue to evolve throughout the city. So the committee is going to recommend city leaders form some sort of commission to monitor such activity citywide. And, he said, the group also will work to promote a vibrant and safe entertainment scene in the city.

“Moratorium is a dirty word,” McCann said. “Moratorium is defeatist. Moratorium is saying ‘no.’ We want to say ‘yes’ ” to a strong, healthy and prosperous entertainment industry in Charleston.

The Late Night Activity Review Committee was formed to create a more inclusive strategy to rein in late-night revelers, especially on upper King, than the initial version proposed by Charleston Mayor Joe Riley, Police Chief Greg Mullen and Tim Keane, the city’s planning director.

That plan included an ordinance creating an “entertainment district overlay zone.” It would have restricted some business activity within the zone, including prohibiting new businesses from serving alcohol after midnight. It would have been a permanent measure.

But the plan met with resistance from members of the food and beverage industry, and City Council, instead, voted in favor of a one-year moratorium on new establishments on King Street, parts of Meeting and East Bay streets, and the City Market area that serve alcohol past midnight.

McCann said the committee also will make recommendations about late-night zoning measures and how best to move people from bars and restaurants, to vehicles and out of the entertainment district.

He also said the committee will take public comments from Tuesday’s meetings and use them to refine its recommendations. It then will make a report to City Council in July. That body ultimately must approve a late-night activity ordinance.

Margaret Seidler from Seidler Associates, the group that facilitated the committee, said that in addition to hearing the committee’s recommendations, people who attend the meetings will hear a presentation from Jim Peters, president of the Responsible Hospitality Institute, and a national expert on managing the nighttime economy. Peters has extensive knowledge about what has worked in other areas to promote the kind of thriving entertainment scene that many people would like to see in Charleston.

Reach Diane Knich at 843-937-5491 or on Twitter at @dianeknich.