A task force of club owners, neighborhood groups and law enforcement will have three months to find common ground on the issue of 2 a.m. bar closings.
Kelvin Washington, chairman of Richland County Council, will appoint a group to study the countywide approach to a “last call” in unincorporated areas. He said meetings will be open to the public.
Richland County Sheriff Leon Lott made it clear again Tuesday, through a representative, that he’s looking for a countywide measure with no exceptions. That’s in contrast to the city of Columbia, which has ordered bars to close at 2 a.m. but allows for exceptions.
“We really would like to improve upon that,” Lt. Steve Birney told the council.
Birney said that, going back to January 2009, the sheriff’s department received nearly 108,000 calls for service. About 18,000 of them, or 16.6 percent, came in between 2 a.m. and 7 a.m.
“We think the facts speak for themselves,” Birney said.
But Councilman Damon Jeter said the county owes businesspeople a chance to work toward a compromise.
The proposal began as a long-ago request by Councilman Jim Manning for early bar closings in his district. He said people who live along Decker Boulevard and Percival Road, in particular, are disturbed by late-night noise from clubs. But Manning has had a hard time getting the council to focus on the issue.
Tuesday, he asked for task force recommendations by December.
A group of 10 people who appeared interested in the issue attended Tuesday’s meeting, but would not give their names to reporters.
On another matter, the council delayed until November a decision on creating tax districts to generate $110 million to attract growth to blighted parts of the city.
Councilman Greg Pearce said he wanted to hold up until a penny sales tax for transportation improvements goes to voters Nov. 6. The vote was 7-4, with Manning, Joyce Dickerson, Gwendolyn Davis Kennedy and Paul Livingston opposing the delay.
Reach Hinshaw at (803) 771-8641.