City considers changing the closing time for bars and clubs

MYRTLE BEACH, SC (WMBF) – A discussion continues into changing an ordinance which would allow bars and clubs to stay open past 2 a.m., in order to sell food and soft drinks.

The conversation was led by Karen Holck of Research 101. Holck represented Pulse Ultra Club, which was asking the city council for permission to stay open after two a.m. to sell food and soft drinks.

"Their customers were leaving and going to places with similar licenses that the enforcement was not being made over," said Holck. She explained staying open to sell food is permitted under state law.

"The state laws concern is not over if your business is closed. It is over the enforcement of alcohol laws," said Holck.

During Tuesday's city council meeting, Tom Leath explained the city's ordinance is stricter than the state law.

"Our law states you must stop selling alcohol and close your doors by 2 a.m.," said Leath as he asked the city council to talk about options; leave it as is or change it to let bars stay open past midnight.

Councilman Lowder was vocal in his opposition against the change. During the discussion Lowder said "I'm not willing to change what is already in place." He expressed concerns over establishments pushing the envelope and continuing to sell alcohol after 2 a.m.

Councilwoman Grissom Means worried it would become an enforcement issued for police. "It won't just be this club, but all others in the city," she said.

However, Holck pointed out, six days out of the week clubs and bars are already allowed to stay open past 2 a.m. in order to sell food and drinks.

"There isn't a concern about Friday into Saturday and there is no such prohibition then," said Holck.

The council wondered if one night of additional revenue for a few hours was even worth the discussion. The owner of Pulse Ultra Club said those profits add up.

"One day a week added up the revenue you've lost a week multiplied by 52 weeks that's a lot of revenue," said owner Ken Phillips, adding that the last hour is the money-making hour for the bar business.

In addition, he sees his customers leave unhappy since they don't understand why the club closes at 2 a.m. when other establishments stay open. Phillips said it comes down to enforcement not being fairly executed amongst all clubs.

"I stand to lose a lot of business, and every bar stands to lose a lot of business, by making a customer mad and losing permanent revenue on top of that," said Phillips

The City Council eventually decided it may be cleaner to get rid of the After Hours Permit, or CEEP, and have local businesses abide to the state law, instead.

On September 9, the city council plans to discuss this issue further. They may decide to do away with the current city ordinance and allow businesses with a beer and wine license to follow state law. Under that law, establishments can stay open past 2 a.m. to serve food and drinks.

The council agreed if a business breaks that law and is caught serving alcohol after 2 a.m., it will become a public nuisance and will be permanently shut down.

Until the issue is resolved, the city wants every business with a beer or liquor license to shut down by 2 a.m. on Saturdays leading into Sunday mornings.

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