Nothing good happens after 2 a.m. in Horry County.
That’s the theory behind a proposed ordinance that, if approved, would require all county businesses serving alcohol to close at 2 a.m.
Those establishments make up a “large majority” of the late-night calls for service for county police, said Wes Covington, the county’s deputy attorney.
“Prolonged consumption of alcohol is the issue,” he said. “And a last call ordinance has not been effective.”
Prolonged consumption of alcohol is the issue. And a last call ordinance has not been effective.
Wes Covington, Horry County deputy attorney
A “last call” policy requires a business to stop serving alcohol at a set time. Covington said he’s studied ordinances from other jurisdictions and found that patrons often order several pitchers at the final call, extending the drinking in the bar or club.
Members of county council’s Public Safety Committee heard the 2 a.m. proposal on Monday and seemed pleased with the suggested closing time.
“This essentially would make it easier to enforce the 2 a.m. deal,” councilman Johnny Vaught said. “You don’t have to go in there … and see if they’ll serve you a drink. The doors are closed.”
Some officials questioned whether business owners could find loopholes in the proposed ordinance.
Councilman Bill Howard said some revelers may continue drinking in the parking lot after the bars close.
“They will go outside and they’ll stay there ‘til the sun comes up,” he said. “They’ll find their drinks and they’ll continue. … The party can go outside.”
They will go outside and they’ll stay there ‘til the sun comes up. They’ll find their drinks and they’ll continue. … The party can go outside.
Horry County Councilman Bill Howard
Horry County Police Chief Saundra Rhodes said some places stay open until 4 a.m. now and police are called to disperse the crowd if there’s an altercation in the parking lot.
“The only thing I see here changing is the time,” she said. “We’re already handling that.”
Sheriff Phillip Thompson questioned the county’s ability to enforce a closing time. Years ago, he said, a similar measure was tried but business owners circumvented the rule by becoming private clubs. That put them out of the regulation’s reach.
“That’s the way they got around it,” he said.
County officials said other communities in South Carolina have passed similar policies on bar hours in recent years. Charleston County leaders adopted a 2 a.m. to 6 a.m. closing time for businesses serving alcohol in 2013 and Horry County’s draft ordinance is modeled after that.
Horry County Administrator Chris Eldridge pointed out that when the county’s Zoning Board of Appeals approves a special exception for a business to sell alcohol within 500 feet of a residential area, the board already typically stipulates a 2 a.m. closing time.
“That’s pretty much standard,” he said.
County staff agreed to do some more research into the concerns raised by Howard and Thompson. Covington said he would report back to the committee, which would then have the option of sending the proposal on to the full council for approval.
“We’ll make sure we can take this as far as it can go,” he said.