Tuesday, April 17, 2012

League of Women Voters to host school safety forum, Jack Bass appearance

Posted by Paul Bowers on Tue, Apr 17, 2012 at 11:12 AM

Jack Bass
  • Jack Bass

On Wednesday night, after their regular 5:30 p.m. board meeting, the League of Women Voters Charleston Area will host a discussion of discipline and safety in schools. Invited speakers include an associate superintendent, a high school principal, a school resource officer, and a criminal justice professional. A group question-and-answer session will follow. The public forum will go from 6:30 to 8 p.m. at the downtown YWCA (106 Coming St.).

The LWVCA has also announced that the guest speaker at their Annual Meeting will be author and College of Charleston professor Jack Bass. Bass, a former newspaper reporter, has written eight nonfiction books about the American South, including Transformation of Southern Politics, The Orangeburg Massacre, and STROM: The Complicated Personal and Political Life of Strom Thurmond. He is currently working on his ninth book, Justice Abandoned, about the Supreme Court's role in undermining Reconstruction.

Bass will join the LWVCA for a dinner on May 9 at 39 Rue de Jean. The cost of the evening is $30 and includes dinner. You can reserve a seat either through PayPal (with an added $2 processing fee) or by sending an RSVP to Julie Hussey.

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Monday, April 16, 2012

Should restaurant managers be required to take alcohol server training?

Posted by Paul Bowers on Mon, Apr 16, 2012 at 2:53 PM

We've gotten a lot of passionate responses to our story last week on the problem of alcoholism in Charleston's food and beverage industry. Some people said there is a lack of reasonably priced taxi services to take restaurant employees home after 2 a.m. closing time. Others said we were off-base in writing the story in the first place. And one longtime Charleston bartender, Keith Purdy, sent us an e-mail to say that South Carolina ought to make alcohol-safety classes mandatory for anyone serving alcohol — including waiters, bartenders, and even management.

Purdy has been bartending since 1978, when he picked up a job while studying at the College of Charleston. He now runs a company called A Southern Bartender, offering catering services as well as classes for servers. In his classes, Purdy goes over things like the differing effects of alcohol on men and women, the extent of bartenders' liability in DUI cases, and how to spot a person who has had too much to drink.

Recently, he gave a training session to 30 employees at a downtown seafood establishment after explaining to the management that a victim of a DUI accident could sue them if the offender had been drinking at the restaurant. He says the managers were shocked to learn they could be held liable.

He understands why some managers and owners don't want to pay for their employees to get server training through a program like ServeSafe or TIPS (Training for Intervention Procedures), which Purdy charges $50 per employee to provide. "Bar owners feel like it's a tax to have to train these people when they may not be there but another month or two," he said in a phone interview.

That's why, if Purdy were king for a day, he would require all alcohol servers to pay to take a one-time alcohol-service course and get a state-issued bartender's license (and we would like to acknowledge that, yes, Purdy stands to make some money off of this). If a server were found selling alcohol to minors or to people who were already drunk, officials could yank his or her license. His idea isn't unprecedented. In 2010, Indiana began requiring all servers to take a training course when they start serving alcohol, plus a refresher course every three years.

Purdy has been called on as an expert witness in about a dozen alcohol-service lawsuits in the state, and he says the issue of server training has come up in every one of them. As for the pending lawsuit against the Neighborhood Dining Group, in which the owners of Husk are being asked to pay damages for an alleged DUI accident involving a Husk manager, he says the company probably wouldn't get off the hook just for having put their manager through TIPS training. It would help their case, though, and in some cases it could lessen the damages they have to pay.

"Well, it would be good PR," he says.

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Sunday, April 15, 2012

Hotel cashes in on Ridiculously Photogenic Guy's fame

Posted by Paul Bowers on Sun, Apr 15, 2012 at 5:00 AM

Well, it was probably inevitable. Somebody found a way to make a buck off of Zeddie Watkins Little's recent internet fame as the Ridiculously Photogenic Guy. And since his now-legendary photo was taken just over the bridge in Mt. Pleasant during the Cooper River Bridge Run, what better place to cash in on the trend than downtown Charleston?

The Elliott House Inn, a Queen Street bed and breakfast, announced last week that they would be offering a special deal called the Ridiculously Photogenic Guy Package. Here's what you get, according to a press release:

In preparation for their ridiculously photogenic run, guests will pick up some new running gear with a $50 gift certificate for The Extra Mile running store and carbo load with a delicious pasta dinner at a local Italian favorite Il Cortile Del Re. After resting up for the run in The Elliott House Inn’s newly renovated accommodations, guests will hit the Ravenel Bridge, where the ridiculously photogenic photo was shot, to have their own photo snapped by local photographer Jeni Rone of Sea Star Arts.

The RPG Package goes for $329. Interested? You can make a reservation here.

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Thursday, April 12, 2012

Federal and state agencies don't want skatepark under highway ramps

Posted by Paul Bowers on Thu, Apr 12, 2012 at 5:00 AM

In the latest round of demands from state and federal highway officials, Charleston's planned new skatepark near the intersection of Meeting and Huger streets would have to be designed so as not to include sections underneath the Interstate and state highway overpasses in the area. This could mean that the city ends up with either a smaller park or a different park location altogether.

More than a year after the Charleston County Park and Recreation Commission set aside $2 million from its reserve funds to build a skatepark, more than $50,000 of that money has been spent — but not a single bowl, ramp, or rail has gone up. That's because the S.C. Department of Transportation and the Federal Highway Administration have jurisdiction over the city-owned land underneath I-26 and Highway 17 and have demanded that a battery of studies be done before anyone starts pouring concrete.

"They're not used to people building parks under their Interstates and ramps," says Hernan Peña, director of the Charleston Department of Traffic and Transportation. Peña says most of the demands from the SCDOT and FHA have been reasonable, including requests for security, drainage, and environmental studies. But he says officials have also been demanding information that won't be available until the city and county begin their design phase — which won't begin until highway officials sign off on the current feasibility phase.

Peña says the issues are not deal-breakers, and he has requested a meeting with the SCDOT, FHA, city and county officials, and representatives from skatepark design company Team Pain, which has been contracted to draw up the blueprints. He hopes that, with everybody in the same room, they will be able to resolve any remaining conflicts, including the matter of whether construction will be allowed underneath the overpasses or near their support columns. He says he is "fairly confident" that the current site will work out.

Tom O'Rourke, executive director of the Charleston County Park and Recreation Commission, says the biggest potential deal-breaker in talks with highway officials could be the question of whether any part of the skatepark is allowed to be built under the overpasses.

"At the beginning of this process, we had a vision for what we wanted the skatepark to be," O'Rourke says. "We said a minimum of 40,000 square feet, probably 60,000 square feet, and that's what we want to build." The vision, he says, is for a large park that will become a regional attraction.

O'Rourke says the meeting with the federal and state highway officials will likely be scheduled within the next 30 days, and if the skatepark ends up getting less than 40,000 square feet of land for construction, he will have to start looking at other sites for the park.

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Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Zeddie Watkins Little goes on Good Morning America

Sorry, America, the Ridiculously Photogenic Guy is spoken for

Posted by Paul Bowers on Wed, Apr 11, 2012 at 10:41 AM

The bad news is out, America: Zeddie Watkins Little, Charleston's native son who has come to be known as Ridiculously Photogenic Guy, has a girlfriend.

Little confirmed his relationship status this morning on ABC's Good Morning America during a brief segment in which he appeared with Will King, the MUSC computer programmer who snapped the photo that launched the meme. He did not stop smiling the entire time.

"I kind of feel honored to be part of, like, a joke that's in good spirits, because sometimes the internet can be vicious," he told GMA host Robin Roberts.

Little also announced that he would be running the New York City Marathon to raise money for the John Ritter Foundation for Aortic Health. Movie actress Amy Yasbeck, Ritter's widow and founder of the Ritter Foundation, contacted the City Paper earlier in the week trying to get in touch with Little, and while we did what we could to help, we weren't sure if he'd be willing to make the jump from 10K to marathon. Apparently he's game, though, cementing his reputation as not just a ridiculously good-looking guy, but a ridiculously nice one, too.

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