The Price of Liberty is Eternal Vigilance

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County Council March 6

Unease about 2 a.m. bar closing ordinance
Progress on recycling efforts
Warwick Jones

Discussions and presentations took up most of last night’s Finance Committee meeting.

The County Ordinance that closed bars at 2 a.m. received considerable airing and discussion before its final implementation at the end of last year. At the request of Council member Qualey, it was up for discussion again last night, but not for a vote. He questioned the objective of the ordinance and noted its unintended consequences. He suggested that some businesses had been forced to close because of the ordinance and noted they had been tax paying and law abiding. It seemed that Council member Qualey had no problem with the original intent of the law but wanted some modification to accommodate those businesses so drastically affected.

Council member Darby too was concerned and indeed hostile to the ordinance for the same reasons as Council member Qualey. Indeed, he went even further and suggested that the ordinance be repealed. He thought that the ordinance was a too great a government intrusion into the lives of citizens. Other Council members such as Condon, Schweers and Rawl frowned at changing the ordinance. Council member Condon noted that some of the affected businesses were strip clubs and she seemed unmoved that they would close down. Council member Schweers noted problems in rural areas with clubs operating beyond 2 a.m.

There was not much discussion about the purpose of the ordinance. Council member Rawl suggested it was safety. He noted that before the ordinance, patrons of bars in the municipalities ejected after 2 a.m. could migrate to those in the unincorporated areas and continue their drinking. This was not a good thing for obvious reasons – drinking and driving, particularly in the early hours was dangerous. He noted the considerable number of alcohol related deaths in auto accidents in the County.

Our recollection of the ordinance was that it was spawned by the need to bring the County ordinance into line with those of the municipalities. It was specifically noted that patrons of North Charleston bars were migrating to those of the County after the City’s 2 a.m. closing time. The County needed to change its ordinance, though we are not sure it was because of safety reasons or pique on the part of North Charleston bar owners. But whatever, it took some time to get the ordinance enacted. Some of the smaller municipalities had issues and the County deferred the implementation of the ordinance so these issues could be addressed. Presumably they were and the ordinance became effective at year end.

Some bar and club owners, or representatives, were allowed to address the Committee last night. They spoke of the very adverse impact the ordinance had had on business, noting at the same time no brushes with the law had occurred. Assistant Sheriff Lucas took issue with one speaker saying that a murder occurred in a parking lot across the road from his establishment. The owner denied it had anything to do with the club.

No vote was taken last night but the issue is likely to be addressed again next month by the Committee and voted upon.

The County’s solid waste and recycling activities are moving forward.

Staff reported that it expects all of the County will be covered for recyclable collection by June this year. Presently, 77,000 households are receiving service with a participation rate of 60%, the percentage of households that are actually using the service. Another 9,500 households will be issued blue bins by April 4 and the remainder of the County – representing 25,000 households - should be added by the end of May.

Good progress was reported on Compost activities, much of the progress being attributed to the replacement of plastic collection bags by paper bags. Inbound yard waste rose 13% to 58,561 tons in 2013. Sales of compost, from the inbound waste rose from 4,389 tons in 2012 to 8,364 tons in 2013, a 91% increase. Overall revenue from compost sales rose to $107,909 from $57,569 in 2012.

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