Public comment Thursday went 13-3 in favor of a proposed ordinance that would allow sidewalk, cafe-style dining with alcohol sales in North Charleston's Olde Village business district near Park Circle.
During a meeting of the North Charleston City Council, most of those in favor cited the vitality that's returning to the area around East Montague Avenue, while those opposed said the message of condoning alcohol sales on public property sends the wrong message to teenagers.
"This is 100 percent because the customers want it," said supporter Cindy Bohn Coats, of the Olde North Charleston Neighborhood Council.
One of those against the change was James Smith of Cooper River Baptist Church, who said the church congregation opposed the ordinance because of the message and the influence alcohol can have on youth.
The plan would allow restaurants in the district surrounding East Montague Avenue to offer sidewalk dining on city property from 7 a.m. to 11 p.m., but with alcohol service allowed only between 3 and 11 p.m.
Restrictions would occur during home football games at the nearby North Charleston High School, and at special times, such as when the area is blocked off for street events or parades.
As many as seven restaurants could take part.
Business groups, merchants and some neighborhood groups have backed the idea, saying a cafe offering will boost visitation.
Supporters also say it is a way of regulating sidewalk dining on city rights of way.
Mayor Keith Summey said he backed the proposal, citing the vitality and renaissance of businesses around the block that's helping attract young professionals "looking for quality of life" as they relocate to North Charleston.
"It's a whole different Montague at night" than it was two decades ago, he said.
Some members of council expressed opposition to the outdoor alcohol sales.
Councilman Bob King praised the merchants and restaurant operators who have turned the area around in recent years, but he also noted that they did it without serving alcohol outdoors.
The measure faces a second and decisive reading from council at a later date.