Columbia, SC (WLTX) - Columbia City Councilman Howard Duvall said he is working with neighborhoods in the Five Points area and the University of South Carolina to better control alcohol consumption “especially of the students at USC.”
Currently bars in Columbia can pay for a permit that allows them to operate past 2 a.m. and many of those bars are located in Five Points.
Duvall said it's when students leave the bars during the early morning hours that trouble starts.
"They are inebriated. They push over stop signs. They steal furniture. They get sick on the lawns, so I think it would reduce crime in that area,” he said.
At the council meeting Tuesday night Duvall requested that the Public Safety Committee address the extended hours permit. His request was approved and a handful of residents spoke in support of eliminating the ordinance including Dick Harpootlian.
"Our neighborhood, whether it's the Wales Garden, Shandon, University, Martin Luther King, all of these neighborhoods are under assault," Harpootlian said.
USC also sent us this statement.
"Five Points, our oldest village district, is an irreplaceable asset to USC and the greater Columbia community. For many years, USC has engaged with Five Points merchants, neighborhood groups and city leaders to find practical solutions to the problems associated with late-night drinking in Five Points. One obvious solution is to stop granting special permission to bars who wish to remain open past 2 a.m. Last year alone, many of the 260 of our students who were transported to the hospital for overconsumption of alcohol were overserved in Five Points establishments. Of those who were, all reported that they had been drinking in one of the bars granted an exemption to stay open past 2 a.m. We join neighborhood residents and merchants in their belief that the entire Columbia community benefits from a Five Points district that includes a vibrant mix of restaurants and diverse retailers. Allowing the district to become one that promotes late night and early morning drinking as a primary activity endangers our students, places undue burdens on law enforcement and diminishes the quality of life for nearby residents.”
Meanwhile the bar owners we spoke with said it will hurt their businesses if they're forced to close at 2 a.m. Marty Dreesen owns Bar None.
"I probably do 30 percent of my business after 2 a.m. and it would affect my employees more than anything because I have 15 employees. I'd probably have to cut it back to nine probably," Dreesen said.
Bar owners also said that staying open later makes Columbia unique. Brian Yates is the General Manager of Night Caps which sits less than a mile outside of Five Points.
"People in the food and beverage industry, people that load trucks for other companies at night, they want to go out and have their happy hour just like everybody else. It just happens to be at a different time," Yates said.
Duvall said he recognizes these points and hopes to find a solution that would benefit both parties.
The Public Safety Committee will meet February 6 at 10 a.m.
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