I've been looking over the Late Night Entertainment Establishment Ordinance the city passed earlier this week, and I'm at a loss of words. In fact, it's even more depressing than I thought.
Despite some tweaks, the new Late Night ordinance still requires bar staff to patrol — I mean, "monitor" — the off-site locations where their patrons may park, but it also creates a Late Night Establishment Review Committee, which will have the power to decide whether or not prospective bar owners can open a bar in the city — and I mean anywhere in the city (this is not an Upper King Street- and Market-area only ordinance. It applies to everybody, even the bars in Avondale and on Daniel Island).
Well, you're not going to believe who decides who is on the committee: Joe Riley and Joe Riley alone. OK, technically, it's "the mayor," but for now, that's Joe. (And as near as I can tell, the ordinance doesn't mention how long these appointments will be for.)
And it gets worse.
The Late Night Review Committee will be staffed solely by City of Charleston employees. There won't be a representative from the restaurant industry, the bar biz, or even the hotel trade. Instead, we've got a cop, a fire marshal representative, and folks from a host of city departments deciding whether or not a new bar can open. In other words, people who answer directly to the mayor. Yikes.