City Council advances changes in bar-closing time law

cleblanc@thestate.comSeptember 19, 2012 

Columbia on Tuesday moved to change its 2 a.m. bar closing law after several Five Points bars, cited for violating it, protested the ordinance is unclear and unfair.

The key changes clarify that:

•  Any citation police issue to bars – not just those written after 2 a.m. as some bars claimed – can trigger suspension of permits that allow some bars to continue serving alcohol after others close, said Brenda Kyzer, the city’s business license director. Her office enforces permits that allow businesses to serve on their property if they add security measures and take other required action.

•  Bars with permits must stop serving alcohol no later than sunrise. Some bars said the previous law did not spell out a shutdown time.

•  Violations that count toward revoking a permit must occur during the fiscal year the permit is awarded. Some club owners said that was unclear.

•  Bar owners would have 30 days rather than the current five days to appeal a revocation order.

“There is clarity now,” Kyzer said.

Seven Five Points nightspots ran afoul of underage drinking laws and the 2 a.m. permits. Of those, four appealed to the city manager because they were on the verge of a three-month suspension of the permit just as USC students returned to campus. The four bars were awarded new permits, but at least one owner is talking about suing the city.

Council must vote a second time before the changes become permanent.

Reach LeBlanc at (803) 771-8664.

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