Following the killing of a University of South Carolina student who got into a car in Five Points that she mistakenly believed to be her Uber ride, a group of bars are pledging to make door staff available to help people get to a ride safely during late night hours.
According to lengthy April 6 Facebook post from Taneyhill's Group Therapy owner Steve Taneyhill, a host of bars are participating in what is being called the Safe and Sound Pledge.
"This business, in conjunction with the previously established safety protocols, pledges that for the first hour after closing all available door staff will be outside on the sidewalks offering to escort concerned patrons to their ride, whether it be their personal vehicle, Uber or Lyft," the pledge reads. "We will walk you to your car, we will wait with you for your Uber or Lyft, and verify that the driver is the operator provided by the ride-share service."
Taneyhill's post lists a number of Five Points bars, and a photograph accompanying the post shows pledges signed by representatives of a number of establishments, including Lucky's, 5 Points Saloon, Cover 3, CJ's, Bar None, Thirsty Parrot, Latitude 22, Salty Nut Cafe and others.
"Hopefully through our collaborative efforts we can not only address this tragedy, but also lay a foundation to address other issues in our community to prevent future tragedies," Taneyhill's Facebook post reads. "If nothing else, we hope we can help everyone within this family make it home #SAFEANDSOUND."
Free Times reached out to Columbia Police Department Deputy Chief Melron Kelly and asked his opinion of the pledge. Kelly said he appreciated the efforts to assist revelers in the nightlife district in getting to their rides. However, without naming any specific establishments, the deputy chief says the bars could do even more to help alleviate after-hours problems.
"I applaud them," Kelly says, referring to the recent pledge. "But I'd be glad if they also monitored over-serving and people who are obviously intoxicated while they are there. I applaud any efforts that they take, going the extra step to make sure people get to their cab safely or things of that nature. But, I would also say that [monitoring] over-serving and making sure places aren't over capacity, things of that nature are important, too. Let's go full circle on that, if we're talking safety."
Five Points, USC and rideshare safety have swirled in the news since the recent death of 21-year-old Samantha Josephson.
At about 2 a.m. March 29, Josephson, originally from New Jersey, was in Five Points when she got into a car, a black Impala, that police believe she thought was an Uber ride.
However, it was not her ride. Josephson’s body was later discovered by turkey hunters in a remote area of Clarendon County. Law enforcement officials have said she had numerous "sharp force injuries."
Just more than 24 hours after Josephson went missing, at about 3 a.m. on March 30, a Columbia Police officer spotted a black Impala a few blocks from Five Points and pulled the car over. After a foot chase, the driver, 24-year-old Nathaniel Rowland, of Clarendon, was arrested. He's been charged with murder and kidnapping by the state Law Enforcement Division.
According to Columbia Police Chief Skip Holbrook, blood found in Rowland’s car and in the trunk of the car matched Josephson. Rowland is being held at Alvin S. Glenn Detention Center.
The incident, which led to national headlines, has left entities in Columbia scrambling to prevent something similar from happening in the future. Aside from the recent bar pledges, Democratic state Rep. Seth Rose filed a bill that would require rideshare drivers from services like Uber and Lyft to have an illuminated sign identifying the company they are with. Republican state Rep. Micah Caskey co-sponsored that bill.
On April 9, Rose's measure passed by an overwhlming 99-1 margin in the House. (Republican Rep. Mandy Kimmons, of Dorchester, was the lone "no" vote.) The Samantha Josephson Rideshare Safety Act has now been sent to the Senate, where it resides in the Transportation Committee.