Late-night bars and clubs in Myrtle Beach would have to keep negative incidents at their establishments under control or risk losing an exemption that allows them to stay open after 2 a.m., according to an ordinance proposal being considered by City Council.
The Myrtle Beach City Council on Tuesday approved the first reading of an ordinance the city hopes will control negative behavior at late-night bars and nightclubs. A total of 43 businesses in the city currently have exemptions under city law that allow them to serve beer or wine after 2 a.m., when other establishments that serve alcohol must close. Under the proposed ordinance, if an establishment has two negative incidents in a six-month period – that police determine are related to management practices or inadequate security practices – it would be required to put a written safety plan into action for one year. If a third negative incident occurs within that year, that establishment’s exemption is revoked and it would have to stop serving all alcoholic beverages at 2 a.m., according to city attorney Tom Ellenburg.
The ordinance describes negative behavior as “attempted or accomplished robberies of patrons, disorder conduct incidences, breaches of the peace, drug offenses, public nuisances or violations related to unlawful service of alcohol.”
“We want the businesses who get this exemption to know how serious we are that there are no problems,” city spokesman Mark Kruea said.
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Chris Dayton, manager of Bumstead’s Pub on Mr. Joe White Avenue, said he can understand the City Council’s position. Bumstead’s is one of the exempted businesses.
“It’s probably a good idea,” he said. “I used to work at Stool Pigeons [a former bar at Broadway at the Beach] and we could stay open until 4. There definitely were more issues with people being drunk and disorderly the later it got.”
Dayton added that he didn’t think the ordinance would impact Bumstead’s, since it typically draws a local crowd and people seem to be more laid back.
But Neil Dubravski, manager at Burger Bar & Beach Club, said he thinks the ordinance could negatively impact his business.
“It’s good for the public, but I don’t think it’s fair to the business at all,” he said. “Any patron could walk into the parking lot and someone could come off the street and [rob them].”
Burger Bar, located in the 1600 block of North Kings Highway, is another establishment that has the 2 a.m. exemption.
Dubravski also said he didn’t understand why late-night bars were being targeted.
“Just because we’re open late, they’ll take the license away?” he said. “If you go to Walmart and an incident happens, what will they take from them?”
According to the proposed ordinance, the written safety plan must include things such as disclosing the number of security personnel, outlining identification checking and patron search procedures and procedures for making sure that servers have been properly trained.
A late-night establishment that loses its exemption can regain it after six months pass with no incidents. If the city has to revoke the exemption a second time, the business will no longer be able to serve beer and wine after 2 a.m.
Additionally, the proposed ordinance would require that any late-night establishment caught serving alcohol to minors or to already intoxicated patrons must show proof within 45 days that all of its staff has S.C. Department of Revenue-approved alcohol training.
Kruea said there was no specific event that spurred council to tackle the issue, which had originally been on the council’s agenda as far back as May 11. It was continued twice before being discussed by council for the first time June 11.
During Tuesday’s meeting council members mentioned a reported shooting in the Kono Lounge parking lot early Saturday morning, but that business is not one of the 43 exempted establishments in Myrtle Beach.
“This is an opportunity for these businesses to stay open late, but they must behave responsibly,” Kruea said.
The ordinance must be voted on a second time before it would become law, which could happen as soon as June 25.