This weekend, when throngs of University of South Carolina students leave Five Points bars at closing time, some serious folks will have their backs.
The 20 or so bars that are popular with the late night college crowd have agreed in writing to have their door staff on the streets, available to escort patrons to their ride-share and look out for signs of trouble.
The pledge comes after the horrific killing of USC co-ed Samantha Josephson on March 29. The effort was launched by Fabian Ludwig, the head bouncer at Taneyhilll’s Group Therapy, which has operated in Five Points since 1978.
“It’s such a horrible thing that happened, we’re willing to do whatever we can to help,” said bar owner Steve Taneyhill, a former Gamecock football great who purchased Group Therapy in 2016. “Pretty much everyone in Five Points jumped on it.”
Police say Josephson, a 21-year-old USC student from New Jersey, was slashed to death after she mistakenly hopped into a car with a man she thought was her Uber driver.
Since then, the S.C. General Assembly, Uber, USC and the city of Columbia have all pitched new regulations, offered tips, established pick-up locations and advanced other efforts to keep ride-share users safe.
But Five Points bars vow to put boots on the ground.
Ludwig, over the course of a couple of nights last week, met with bar owners, managers and head doormen in the popular entertainment district and presented them with the pledge he had written himself.
All but one signed, but only because that owner is having it reviewed by his attorney, Taneyhill said. The State has reached out to that bar owner.
The pledge states:
“5 Points is more than a collection of bars, shops and restaurants. It’s a community . . . When tragedy strikes it is imperative that we not only come together as a community to grieve and mourn, but also enact meaningful change.”
According to Ludwig’s pledge, for the first hour after closing time, all available door staff will be available to walk patrons to their cars.
“We will wait with you for your Uber or Lyft, and verify that the driver is the operator provided by the ride-share service,” the pledge says.
Taneyhill says that his bar, which is normally staffed with six or seven bouncers on the weekend, could put as many doormen as needed outside to help patrons get to the ride-shares and look for patrons who are potentially in danger.
“Just to be there If someone needs help,” he said. For instance, “You are looking for singles.. You want people to be in a group. But sometimes people wander away from their group.”
Josephson was alone in the early hours of March 29 when she got into the car. A group of friends were in Five Points hours later, showing Josephson’s photo to people and asking if they’d seen her.
Taneyhill said he is proud that Ludwig took the steps to rally the other bars around the pledge.
“Fabian took it on himself to make Five Points a better place,” he said.