Even though Charleston City Council has yet to pass the proposed 12 a.m. bar closing ordinance, the law is more or less in effect.
According to city attorney Frances Cantwell, the City of Charleston is still handing out business licenses to new bars and restaurants; however, those bars and restaurants must close at 12 a.m. The reason, Cantwell says, is the pending ordinance doctrine, which, in this case, prevents the city from contradicting the proposed ordinance by issuing business permits to bars that intend to stay open until 2 a.m.
While this information contradicts previous reports that the city had put a moratorium on business licenses for new bars and restaurants, the most controversial aspect of the ordinance is already being applied and will continue to be applied until the ordinance receives its final reading.
Cantwell also says that some bars and restaurants who currently have not applied for business license but who have already jumped through other regulatory hoops may be grandfathered into the 2 a.m. closing time. However, this does not apply to all new bars and restaurants without a business license.