Last Tuesday night, the fight against the proposed midnight bar closing ordinance seemingly came to an end. In part, it was because the fix was in from the beginning — the mayor wanted it, the police chief wanted it, city council wanted it, the city planner wanted it, the neighborhood associations wanted it, and they had all agreed that this was the right and moral and quality-of-lifey thing to do and they weren't going to let anyone stand in their way.
They didn't care if the F&B industry was opposed to the ordinance, in both its earlier vague form and its more polished final form. They didn't care if the night-life loving young adults who flock to Upper King opposed a ban. They didn't care that the city itself created the problem by granting parking variances and allowing a swarm of late-night establishments to open on the once-blighted strip of Upper King. They didn't care that an increase in Upper King arrests was largely the result of an intense police policy to stop-and-harass drunken imbibers walking home. A 12 a.m. bar ban was going to happen.
However, the bar ban doesn't affect every potential new F&B biz in the Upper King and Market Street entertainment districts the same way. New hotel bars are exempt from the ban; they can still sling suds until 2 a.m. while other new establishments have to shut down their taps at midnight. To paraphrase George Orwell: All new bars are equal, but some are more equal than others.
But as inevitable as the 12 a.m. bar ban appears to be — it still has to pass two more readings until it is law — there might be hope just yet. However, defeating the midnight ordinance will take an extraordinary effort on the part of the F&B industry. They alone can solve this problem. And the solution is this: The men and women of Charleston's food and bev businesses must refuse to serve anyone who supports this puritanical ordinance.
And that means Mayor Joe Riley.
And Police Chief Greg Mullen.
And City Planner Tim Keane.
And City Councilman Mike Seekings.
And City Councilman Gary White.
And City Councilman Rodney Williams.
And City Councilman James Lewis Jr.
And City Councilman Robert Mitchell.
And City Councilman Marvin Wagner.
And City Councilman William Dudley Gregorie.
And City Councilman Perry K. Waring.
And City Councilman William Moody.
And all the members of the neighborhood associations who publicly supported the midnight bar ban.
Do not serve them drinks. Do not bring them food. Do not let them into your establishment. Simply ask them to leave. They don't support you, so you don't have to serve them.
However, please feel free to give the three city council members who opposed the 12 a.m. ordinance a drink on the house. If you don't know who they are, then let me tell you: Aubry Alexander, Dean Riegel, and Kathleen Wilson. They're your friends. Treat them accordingly.