Charleston Police Chief, city leaders discuss earlier last-call to improve King Street safety

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CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCBD) – City of Charleston Police Chief Luther Reynolds says King Street would be safer if restaurants and bars were forced to close an hour earlier moving up last-call from 2:00 a.m. to 1:00 a.m.

Reynolds say this would be part of his efforts to make the business district safer following a Count On 2 Investigation. On Tuesday night, Charleston City Council discussed several options to combat crime including an earlier last call.

“What they talked about last night is accurate, at closing time on the weekends we have a problem that we need to address and have better outcomes,” says Chief Reynolds.

King Street night-life drawing comparisons from city leaders to Bourbon Street in New Orleans and Myrtle Beach. Chief Reynolds says recent stabbings and shootings have left city leaders searching for ways to improve safety.

“I really do believe that 1:00 a.m. is a time that out city should shut down,” says Chief Reynolds.

Among the options being considered, moving last call up an hour to 1:00 a.m. with the hopes the move encourages late night bar-goers to leave the area sooner.

“We’re working with the business community and having these discussions,” says Chief Reynolds. “The Mayor really wants to have some consensus and at least listen to the businesses.”

Safety is high on the minds of more than just the city’s top law enforcer. Business owners like El Jefe Co-owner Roy Neal say the recent crime draws attention to the need.

“All of the businesses up and down King Street want the sidewalks safe and clear whether it’s 10:00 p.m. at night or 2:00 a.m. at night when your staff is leaving or when your patrons from your bar or restaurant are leaving.” says Neal.

Neal says he doesn’t necessarily agree with restricting bars and restaurants and moving up last call.

“Most responsible businesses out there are pretty much shutting down, they’re in that shut down mode by 1:30 a.m.,” says Neal. “I don’t think the city needs to enact a new ordinance to shut down and limit businesses any further.”

City and business leaders sharing a similar goal with different ways to achieve it, left searching for answers.

“The goal is that it will be a net-net positive and that it will make our city better and make our experience even better than it already is,” says Chief Reynolds.

City Council chose to not vote on a possible change to the current last call of 2:00 a.m. delaying those conversations until at least June’s council meeting allowing more discussion on best possible solutions. City leaders are expected to meet with some of the businesses along King Street sometime this week.

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