Bars in the county’s jurisdiction will not have to close at 2 a.m., thanks to an alternative plan unanimously approved by the Horry County Council on Tuesday that puts the burden on owners to crack down on late-night crime.
The initial solution to close bars at 2 a.m. was met with strong resistance from local business owners and their patrons, many of whom are locals working late-night shifts in the service industry.
The final result is that county officials will more closely scrutinize new bar owners applying to stay open between midnight and 6 a.m., with a more detailed background check than conducted by state officials for liquor licenses.
“It’s all about creating safety in these late-night establishments to help our police officers know who we are dealing with,” said Mark Lazarus, Horry County Council chairman.
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Existing bars as well as new establishments must submit safety plans outlining how they propose to eliminate criminal activity and prevent service to underage patrons.
New establishments must pay annual fees of $250 to cover costs, while existing businesses have to pay the fee only once.
“We’re going to have to know who we are dealing with, who the registered agents are and who the operators are,” Lazarus said. “Plus, it strengthens our business license so now we have something we can use to actually pull somebody’s business license if we’re having issues or problems from their establishment on a repeated basis.”
The council debated the issue for months in attempt to find a solution to late-night criminal activities on and off bar premises.
Council members say it’s not their intention to penalize businesses that are operating lawfully, but to have some power to pull licenses if crime or other public safety problems persist.
Established businesses would fall under the new rules if crimes are reported on the premises.
“It would be most advisable for all establishments to adhere to the safety plan that you will be providing along with your business license, and keep everything safe, then I think everything will be good,” Lazarus said.
The City of Myrtle Beach already requires that safety plans be submitted by bar owners.