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Columbia mayor weighs in on possible lifting of 11 pm 'Last Call Order'

Governor McMaster is thinking about lifting the executive order, but Mayor Benjamin says cases are too high.

COLUMBIA, S.C. — As small businesses in Columbia fight to survive this pandemic, many restaurants are hoping the governor lifts the Last Call Order so they can make more money.

"It makes no sense. COVID is still here before 11 p.m. and it’s here after 11 p.m.," said Liz Williamson, a bartender at The Aristocrat. 

The Last Call Order prohibits restaurants and bars from selling alcohol after 11 p.m. as a COVID-19 precaution. The Governor's Office told News 19 that Governor McMaster is contemplating getting rid of it soon.

RELATED: Restaurant owners ask Governor McMaster to lift 11 pm 'Last Call Order' before NYE

"If we’re going to open, then absolutely we should be open as late as possible," said Williamson. She added that closing the Columbia restaurant early has greatly impacted her income. 

But Columbia Mayor Steve Benjamin told News19 he doesn’t support loosening COVID-19 restrictions right now.

"The reality is, we’re still faced with a growing pandemic. The spread is not decelerating, it’s accelerating. We’re probably in the most dangerous infection period since the start of the pandemic," the mayor said.

RELATED: SC surpasses record with 3,648 new COVID-19 cases, 25.9% positive rate

Benjamin explained the Last Call Order helps slow the spread of the virus because it prevents people from gathering late and letting their guards down.

"It’s just a fact that it’s easier to pass COVID in a bar particularly without the restrictions of capacity," he said. "After a drink or two your mask comes down, and you wind up in a situation where it’s very easy for the virus to pass."

Manager of The Aristocrat Shamar Green said he thinks the order should be lifted as long as people are following COVID-19 guidelines.

"We are still trying to make sure we can put people in, but it has to be safety first for us," Green said.

RELATED: SC First Lady Peggy McMaster tests positive for COVID-19

Ultimately, it’s up to the governor to decide. Mayor Benjamin said he hopes the decision will be based off science, data and advice from DHEC.

If the governor lifts the order, Benjamin said City Council will look into their options, but they can’t do anything that would directly contradict the Governor’s actions.

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