Council vote correct to close bars earlier
Tuesday, December 10, 2013 12:54 AM
Abbeville County Council on Monday cast a right vote by giving a "yes" to a plan to shutter bars an hour earlier than currently allowed within the county.
Sheriff Ray Watson shared sufficient 911 dispatch documentation that reflects a familiar cliché: "Nothin' good happens after midnight." Bars will still be allowed to remain open after midnight, and while Watson is willing to let them continue serving till 2 a.m. he thinks the 3 a.m. closings are problematic, and apparently for good reason.
The sheriff sought Council's support to simply follow the lead of neighboring counties and municipalities with ordinances that shutter bars at 2 a.m., to include Greenwood and the City of Abbeville.
Watson is not anti-business any more than Council is. They all realize the loss of one hour represents a loss of sales and that a loss of sales affects a business' revenue. But safety takes precedent against all else, including revenue, and this measure simply makes sense.
There is potential for problems when patrons can load up the drinks at last call at 2 a.m. and continue drinking into the night, leaving the bar at 3 a.m. and even later sometimes. Under the new amendment patrons would have to be off premises by 2:30 a.m. This should also deter the drinkers who cover the circuit, so to speak, venturing into Abbeville County bars because they know they can order up just before 2 a.m. and continue drinking till 3.
This is not the first effort county law enforcement has made to shutter bars earlier. Former Sheriff Charles Goodwin also sought a new cutoff time in 2010, but it did not get past County Council. Perhaps the recent incidents that took place in some establishments — in Abbeville and elsewhere — coupled with the revealing statistics shared with Council by Watson were sufficient motivators to move forward with the change this time around.
Whatever the reason, Council was wise Monday to support the measure to begin closing bars at 2 a.m. rather than at 3.
There exists a fine line between business and government. Some would say government — law enforcement, in this case — is overstepping its bounds and should simply be on the ready to respond to bars when problems arise. We get that, and we suspect that will continue to happen despite the hour difference. But we also get that too many available hours for public drinking all too often lead to acts of violence, often resulting in death. We'll opt for government overstepping its bounds in this case, if that's what it really is.