Business

Decision to make Myrtle Beach bars close by 2 a.m. delayed

Reginald McCray takes a shot as Blake "Bam" McCarty (left) hopes a solid drops at Natalias Bar & Grill in the Superblock of Myrtle Beach early Friday, Dec. 4, 2015. Myrtle Beach City Council continued part of an ordinance that would require bars and nightclubs to close at 2 a.m.
Reginald McCray takes a shot as Blake "Bam" McCarty (left) hopes a solid drops at Natalias Bar & Grill in the Superblock of Myrtle Beach early Friday, Dec. 4, 2015. Myrtle Beach City Council continued part of an ordinance that would require bars and nightclubs to close at 2 a.m. The Sun News file photo

Myrtle Beach leaders plan to meet with bar owners before moving forward on a plan to require bars and nightclubs to shut down at 2 a.m.

City Council delayed voting on the proposal Tuesday after about a dozen bar and nightclub owners packed the first-floor conference room inside City Hall concerned about the proposed law.

Nightclub owners have said the early closing requirement would cost them a lot of business among local restaurant personnel, who can’t hit the club scene until after their businesses close. Some bars stay open until 6 a.m. to accommodate that crowd.

The requirement was inspired by a similar county ordinance that passed a first reading last week. With Horry County considering a mandatory 2 a.m. closure, some Myrtle Beach City Council members expressed concerns that an early closing time in the county could force late-night crime issues in county bars to the city. But the Myrtle Beach council hasn’t been entirely supportive of an across-the-board mandatory 2 a.m. closing.

We’ve got some clubs in our city that operate pretty daggone good and I’m really hesitant about looking at just jerking something right up like this. I think it needs to be reviewed.

Mayor John Rhodes

“We’ve got some clubs in our city that operate pretty daggone good and I’m really hesitant about looking at just jerking something right up like this. I think it needs to be reviewed,” Mayor John Rhodes said.

The council asked City Manager John Pedersen to meet with bar and club owners who would be affected by the ordinance before the council talks about the early closing time again. Council members also asked city staff to explore allowing existing businesses that have not caused problems to continue to operate past 2 a.m., while prohibiting new businesses from operating past 2 a.m.

The early closing requirement didn’t pass a first reading, but some of the bar owners questioned another part of the ordinance that will ban them from locking their front doors.

“We have on occasion found some instances where our police or public safety personnel attempt to enter into a nightclub only to find … that the door was locked for people trying to enter in,” Pedersen told the council Tuesday.

We have on occasion found some instances where our police or public safety personnel attempt to enter into a nightclub only to find … that the door was locked for people trying to enter in.

City Manager John Pedersen

The fire code only requires businesses to provide adequate means of escape for patrons in case of emergencies. It does not require businesses to keep their front doors unlocked, Pedersen said. “But obviously this is an issue that raises public safety concerns.”

Hector Melendez, owner of the Pure Ultra Club at 803 Main St., said that once they close they have to countdown their cash registers and it would be “very dangerous to have the doors open at that time.”

City attorney Tom Ellenburg said that the ban on locked doors would only apply when the business is open and patrons are inside.

The requirement did pass a first reading and will come before the council for final approval in June.

Emily Weaver: 843-444-1722, @TSNEmily

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