GREENVILLE, S.C. (WSPA) – Greenville County Council voted Tuesday to pass an ordinance requiring all bars to close at 2:00am.
The ordinance passed the third reading by a vote of 9-2 with one council member abstaining.
The rule will go into effect March 1 and will include hotel room service alcohol sales.
Amendments to allow the bars to stay open after sales ended and to tie fines to number of calls failed.
Bars who do not obey the new ordinance face a ticket with a fine of up to $1,088 and it will be up to the Department of Revenue if the business would lose its liquor license.PREVIOUS STORY:
Greenville County Council will be meeting Tuesday evening to vote on a controversial bar ordinance that would stop people from being able to buy or consume alcohol after 2 a.m. at bars and clubs in the county.
The current ordinance passed through the Public Safety Committee last month. Councilman Lynn Ballard first brought up a version of the ordinance over the summer as an answer to a public safety concern. Then in August, council reconsidered their vote and moved the ordinance back to committee.
On Tuesday, Council will be voting on the 3rd and final reading of the current ordinance. If it passes, it becomes law.
In 2017, Greenville County deputies responded to more than 200 calls between the hours of 2 and 6 a.m. at nearly 20 establishments that are open late.
“Anytime we’re having to respond to a bar or club it’s going to require a substantial amount of deputies for the safety of everyone involved,” Sgt. Ryan Flood with the Greenville County Sheriff’s Office said.
Currently, all establishments have to stop selling liquor at 2 a.m., but bars and clubs are still allowed to sale wine and beer. The new ordinance would stop any on-premise alcoholic consumption but allow the businesses to remain open.
“They’re bandaiding the problem and not fixing the problem,” said Vyron Johnson, the owner of Club Luna. “If you stop serving at 2 is not going to make crime rate go down. I think it’s just going to shift the time of the crime rate.”
Before the meeting Tuesday, Council was split on the issue. Some agree with how the ordinance is currently written.
“Then, you have some who want to do fines per call or per incident after 2 a.m. which seems a little cumbersome to try to pull off,” Greenville County Councilman Ennis Fant said.
Some council members think bars and clubs should stop serving alcohol and close their doors at 2 a.m because they question enforcement.
“If you say you can stay open but you can’t serve alcohol, if you don’t have a deputy sitting there watching your liquor license who’s going to stop it, nobody, so I just think that’s window dressing with no teeth,” Fant said.
The Sheriff’s Office says they work with SLED and Code Enforcement doing random checks of establishments to enforce alcohol laws.
However, they say even clubs stop serving alcohol earlier, there’s no guarantee it will solve the problem.
“They might still continue staying there, or they might leave and go to other places which brings the calls to other locations,” Flood said.
Johnson says he’s continuing to work with Sheriff Will Lewis to make establishments safer.
Greenville’s Police Department allows officers to work side jobs at approved bars and clubs in the city. Currently, the Sheriff’s Office does not allow deputies to do that although they regularly patrol areas where clubs are located. However, Sheriff Lewis says he’s considering changing that rule and has the Sheriff’s Office attorney looking into it.