A look at Mon. Oct. 12's F&B Mayoral Forum questions

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This Mon. Oct. 12 from 1-3 p.m. the Culinary Institute of Charleston on Columbus Street will host an F&B Mayoral Forum. The first of its kind for the city, the event organizers are asking front of house and back of house staffers to attend. All of the mayoral candidates have agreed to attend and BACE League spokesman Elliot Smith will moderate the discussion.

Each candidate has been given a preliminary questionnaire of issues the forum plans to address and has been asked to answer 10 questions and return to BACE today. Here are the 10 questions:

Charleston F&B Mayoral Forum Preliminary Questionnaire


A. Parking
It goes without saying that parking is a scarce resource in downtown Charleston. Generally speaking, residential parking restrictions and enforcement are meant to achieve the laudable interests of convenience and quiet enjoyment of residential property. On the other hand, there are thousands of F&B employees who work downtown and, of course, need a safe, convenient, affordable place to park. Recently, there has been increasing demand in neighborhoods for stricter residential parking enforcement and expanded restrictions.

Question 1:

Considering all of the interests involved, what would you do to ensure that parking restrictions in residential areas are not enforced at the expense of F&B workers, and that in any case, F&B workers have adequate access to safe, convenient, affordable parking?

B. Quality of Life
A considerable portion of Charleston’s municipal code and policy discussion hinges upon maintaining “residential quality of life.” The Charleston residential population is rapidly diversifying, including demographics such as millennials, young professionals, and F&B professionals. Meanwhile, many poorer residents are experiencing cost of living increases. These various demographics may define the ideal “quality of life” differently with respect to expected levels of commercial activity, noise, and nightlife.

Question 2:
Considering the increasing demographic complexity of residential life, particularly on the Peninsula, how will you determine a definition of “quality of life” that represents the views and interests of all residents?

C. Regulatory Demands
On July 1, 2013, City Council enacted the “Late Night Entertainment Establishment” (“LNEE”) Ordinance. A LNEE is a business that:

1. Is not located in a structure that provides “accommodations”;
2. Is open after midnight;
3. Is licensed to allow on-premises consumption of alcoholic beverages; and
4. Is required to have a Class 7(a) business license.

State law requires that all establishments that serve liquor must also serve food. Class 7(a) and 7(b) essentially separates such establishments into two categories: nightclubs and restaurants. Class 7(a) defines night clubs as establishments “which derive thirty-five (35%) or more of their gross income from the sale of beer, wine and/or alcoholic beverages.”

Currently, a LNEE must submit an application to the LNEE Review Committee. The application must include, among other requirements, (1) a security management plan, (2) a waste management plan, and (3) an emergency action plan. The security management plan must describe with particularity how the LNEE will control crowds and underage drinking.
Once an application has been accepted, the LNEE Ordinance mandates the following Operational Regulations upon all LNEEs:

a. Employ door security and indoor security. The required number of such staff is calculated according to a preset occupancy level.
b. Monitor both on-site and off-site parking areas to prevent them from becoming “outdoor gathering areas”;
c. Identify off-site areas “used for parking” by patrons, and clear both said off-site parking and on-site parking areas within thirty (30) minutes of closing;
d. “Employ crowd management techniques to assure that patrons are adequately “disbursed [sic, “dispersed”] throughout the establishment”;
e. Maintain patron lines outdoors so that they do not block the sidewalk;
f. Shut doors and windows when playing music after 11:00. Even after doors and windows are shut, the LNEE violates the Ordinance if it generates noise that can be heard within fifty (50) feet of its entrance;
g. Waste Management: LNEEs are responsible for maintaining sidewalks abutting the establishment.

Violation of any of these requirements results in a criminal citation in Livability Court.

Question 3:
Considering the aggregate of these regulations, what would you do – if anything – to ensure that all LNEE regulations are effective, and not overly burdensome or harmful to business success? Similarly, what would you do to ensure that LNEE regulations are enforced fairly?

D. CPD Involvement
The Charleston Police Department has played an active role in Mayor Riley developing his nightlife policies, which has drawn varying responses ranging from enthusiastic support to significant frustration.

Question 4:
To what degree would you be guided by law enforcement’s recommendations regarding nightlife policy, and why?

E. BAR and Zoning Process and Procedure
Given Charleston’s rich history and beautiful architecture, historic preservation is an important issue in Charleston.

Question 5:
Please articulate how, and to what degree, preservation is important in a developing Charleston.

BAR procedures and zoning approvals are directly relevant to business owners starting or modifying their businesses. Furthermore, these processes are relevant to the presence of adequate affordable workforce housing for F&B employees on the Peninsula, which by nature requires higher density than uses of property targeted to more affluent residents. These issues have been the subject of much debate recently, including the Sgt. Jasper issue and Andrés Duany’s report.

Question 6:
Do you believe that the BAR’s or the BZA’s processes, policies, membership, guidelines, or any other relevant procedural elements need to be reevaluated? Why or why not?

G. Art and Culture
On April 17, 2009, the Supreme Court of Virginia struck down a municipal noise ordinance in Virginia Beach because it was unconstitutionally vague (Tanner v. City of Virginia Beach). The Charleston municipal noise ordinance contains pertinent identical language to that Virginia ordinance. Businesses receive Livability Court criminal citations for violating the ordinance by way of live music.

Question 7:
Considering the Virginia Supreme Court’s ruling, would you reevaluate Charleston’s noise ordinance? Why or why not? Would the needs Charleston’s live music scene factor into your decision?

H. Boards and Committees
Much of Charleston’s policy-making is heavily influenced by the recommendations of dozens of Boards and Committees (“BCs”) whose members are selected by the mayor, and to some extent by City Council. While not all of the membership and activity of these BCs is readily accessible, the common understanding is that these BCs tend to draw from the same demographic, with some members sitting on several BCs simultaneously.

Question 8:
Assuming that there are Charlestonians that fall outside of the currently dominating BC demographic, and who are actively willing to participate as BC members, what would you do to include them in BCs?

Question 9: Do the meetings of these BCs need to be more transparent? Why or why not?

I. Hospitality Tax
The Hospitality Tax is a uniform tax of 2% on the gross proceeds derived from the sales of prepared meals, food, and beverages sold in or by establishments, or those licensed for on- premises consumption of alcoholic beverages, beer, or wine.

Pursuant to SC Code s. 6-1-730, revenue from local hospitality tax may be used for the following purposes:
(1) tourism-related buildings including, but not limited to, civic centers, coliseums, and aquariums;
(2) tourism-related cultural, recreational, or historic facilities;
(3) beach access and renourishment;
(4) highways, roads, streets, and bridges providing access to tourist destinations;
(5) advertisements and promotions related to tourism development; or
(6) water and sewer infrastructure to serve tourism-related demand.

In 2014, the City of Charleston received more than $13 million in Hospitality Tax revenue from the F&B industry. According to the City of Charleston’s records, the expenditure of these funds was as follows:

$5,658,566: General fund;
$4,529,000: Capital Improvements fund;
$750,000: Gaillard Center operating start-up costs;
$572,000: Visitor Center fund;
$269,742: Energy Performance fund;
$150,000: Daniel Island Tennis Center maintenance;
$100,000: Ballpark fund;
$210,000: Aquarium annual capital maintenance;
$210,000: Gibbes annual capital maintenance;
$170,000: Entertainment District law enforcement & maintenance;
$132,000: CVB promotions & advertising;
$130,000: International African-American Museum;
$83,164: Parking facilities fund;
$68,000: Cultural Festivals fund;
$35,000: CVB Gaillard exhibit hall event marketing support;
$19,500: Angel Oak;
$17,500: Black expo;
$3,800: Riverwalk maintenance.

Question 10:
Considering the significance and statutory purpose of this tax revenue, what would you do to ensure that the use of these funds is efficient, transparent, and is beneficial to the businesses that pay this tax?

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