Dorchester to look at 2 a.m. bar-closing curfew

Larry Hargett

Now that North Charleston has ordered bars to close by 2 a.m., late-night barflies are bothering people in Dorchester County, according to County Council Chairman Larry Hargett.

Residents near several bars on Ashley Phosphate Road have been complaining about noise and traffic for some time, but they really got upset when a man was killed outside one of the clubs earlier this month, Hargett said.

The shooting occurred two days after North Charleston started enforcing an ordinance mandating that bars close by 2 a.m. North Charleston passed the ordinance as part of Police Chief Jon Zumalt's attempt to cut crime.

"There's an old saying that nothing good ever happens after 2 a.m.," Hargett said.

He plans to introduce an ordinance that would require all bars in the county to close by 2 a.m. Presently bars in the county can stay open, and serve alcohol, 24 hours a day.

Hargett said he's been getting calls about all-night bars from residents and sheriff's deputies. He said he wasn't free to disclose who has been complaining, but he said some of the residents will air their complaints at the next council meeting Tuesday night.

Dorchester County sheriff's Maj. Mike Turner said deputies who patrol the North

Charleston area have been worried about the effect of the city's ordinance, and he supports the county's move.

"The feeling is that when (North Charleston bars) are forced to close, those who aren't ready to quit clubbing are going to come a short distance" to bars in Dorchester County, Turner said. "Our concern is that the longer people stay out drinking, the more likely they are going to have bar fights."

Turner said he didn't yet have figures on how many crimes occur around bars late at night, but he said he planned to have them for council as they consider the ordinance.

"Whether we see that or not, the concern of the deputies that work in those areas is that it is coming, because some people just aren't ready to go home that time of night," he said.

Jason Allen Rivers, 23, of North Charleston, was shot to death outside Club Echelon on Ashley Phosphate Road at about 4 a.m. on Jan. 4. There's no indication that Rivers was a patron at the club, but residents are wondering if he would have been in the area at all if the club had been closed.

Club Echelon is across Ashley Phosphate Road across from the Pepperhill subdivision. Owner Elliott Morris said he sees no reason to stop people from having fun late at night.

"These crazy cats, whether they put that 2 o'clock thing in effect or not, these cats are just crazy," Morris said Wednesday. "I don't think that's going to stop anything, you know. I just feel like you should have some place for the people to be able to go, because everybody is not a problem. I mean, you got a few bad ones out of the bunch that makes it bad for everybody else, but everybody shouldn't have to suffer for a couple of bad ones that's out there."

JC's is a club in the Food Lion shopping center near the Windsor Hill subdivision. Owner Lorain Robinson celebrated her first anniversary at the club this month.

"It would hurt us big-time," she said of the ordinance. "It's going to tear us up."

The nearest houses are several hundred yards from the back of the club, separated by a parking lot that's not used at night and by a drainage canal. The resident who complained about noise from the club was actually hearing a car stereo not related to the club, she said.

"You can't hear any noise from this club in those houses," Robinson said. "This is a very safe place."

Reach Dave Munday at dmunday@postandcourier.com or 745-5862.