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Gov. McMaster announces lifting of SC’s ‘Last Call’ order, approval process for large gatherings

Updated: Feb. 26, 2021 at 9:40 PM EST
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COLUMBIA, S.C. (WMBF) – After more than seven months, bars and restaurants in South Carolina will be able to sell alcoholic beverages past 11 p.m.

Gov. Henry McMaster announced Friday that COVID-19 safety measures related to the sale of alcohol and mass gatherings will be terminated effective Monday, March 1, 2021.

Restaurants may resume normal alcohol sales as licensed by the South Carolina Department of Revenue.

Additionally, the South Carolina Department of Commerce approval for events involving more than 250 people will no longer be required.

RELATED: ‘I would be ecstatic’: Local bars hopeful McMaster will lift ‘Last Call’ order in March

McMaster previously said the purpose of the Last Call order was to discourage young adults from congregating at bars, which he said would in turn prohibit that group from spreading COVID-19 to populations vulnerable to the virus.

Duck’s Night Club on Main Street in North Myrtle Beach would open from 8 p.m. until 2 a.m. before the pandemic.

When the Last Call Order took effect in July, Duck’s general manager, Paul George, realized he’d be losing half of his profitable hours.

He didn’t see the sense in staying open past 11 p.m. if he couldn’t serve alcohol.

“The biggest problem is most of the artists and bands here aren’t taking half, so we still had to pay them full price, and yet, we only made half our money,” said George.

George is excited to get back to normal operation to make up some of what they lost, even if it costs him some sleep.

“It’s going to be tough for all of us because we’re all used to going home at 11,” he said. “We were all talking about how we’re going to stay out till 1:30-2:00. It’s going to be tough staying awake.”

Back in August, McMaster an executive order that allowed large gatherings of up to 250 people or half the occupancy limit as determined by the fire marshal.

Events seeking an exception had to submit an application to the Department of Commerce for approval.

“With the spread of the virus consistently decreasing across the country and more of the most vulnerable South Carolinians being vaccinated every day, I believe these targeted and limited safety measures are no longer necessary,” said McMaster. “The virus is still among us and we all must continue to make responsible decisions to take care of ourselves and our loved ones, but those decisions are for South Carolinians to make.”

Weldon Boyd, owner of Buoys on the Boulevard, has been working with several other Main Street businesses to set up a St. Patrick’s Day pub crawl.

He thinks it’ll be a little easier to set up now that each restaurant and bar doesn’t have to file with the Department of Commerce.

“Each individual business needed to have one for this event, because this isn’t one whole event, this is Main Street,” said Boyd. “We were trying to cover it and do it the right way and make sure everybody was worked out. This really lifted a lot of stress off us, however, we’re still going to implement the COVID guidelines.”

While approval will no longer be required by the Department of Commerce, it is recommended that organizers of large gatherings implement the following, previously mandatory, safety guidelines:

  • Limit attendance of large gatherings to either 50% of the event space’s posted occupancy limit or fewer than 250 people
  • All employees, customers, patrons, suppliers, vendors, visitors or other people in attendance at a large gathering should wear a face covering
  • Organizers, operators, owners, or hosts of a large gathering shall take reasonable steps to incorporate, implement, comply with, and adhere to any relevant sanitation, “social distancing,” and hygiene guidelines established by the CDC, DHEC, or any other state or federal public health officials.

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