Horry County Council looks to crack down on problem businesses

Horry County Council looks to crack down on problem businesses

HORRY COUNTY, SC (WMBF) - Horry County leaders are once again trying to reduce crime by looking at becoming stricter with late-night businesses where that kind of activity sometimes happens.

Horry County Council members passed the first reading of an ordinance at the fall budget retreat Thursday that would allow the county to revoke business licenses more easily when illegal activities are going on.

"This strengthens our business license and gives us the ability to be able to pull a business license and shut down a business that is not acting within the law, that we're having issues with," Horry County Council Chairman Mark Lazarus said.

The process of shutting down a business as a public nuisance can take a while and is also expensive.

It starts with an investigation from police then it makes its way through the court system.

"I've had some public nuisances that have gotten drawn out and run as high as $30,000 to $40,000 to actually finally complete," said Mike Battle, who prosecutes public nuisance cases.

The required closure then only lasts for a year.

"A year later you can have these same people from the same place and say, 'Ok I want to reopen my business, give me a business license,' and you have to give them a business license," he said.

The proposed ordinance would allow Horry County to take away a business license due to illegal activity and it would last for three years.

The ordinance also calls for what's called a pre-clearance for new businesses to apply for a business license, which more thoroughly vets the background of who plans to run it.

"We're going to know who we're dealing with," Lazarus said. "Who the proprietors are. In the past, we haven't known that."

Under the ordinance, the pre-clearance or the business license could be revoked if problems are occurring at the business.

All new as well as existing businesses serving alcohol from 12 a.m. to 6 a.m. will have to provide safety plans. The hope is to prevent violence and problems from happening in the first place, so licenses won't have to be revoked.

The ordinance still has to pass two more readings.

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