King Street business owners concerned over proposed safety changes to central business district

Local News

CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCBD) – Some King Street business owners say proposed safety changes for the city’s central business district have them concerned. King Street vendors say some businesses could be impacted more than others.

The new rules would require all businesses to begin closing their doors at 1:30 a.m. affecting bars and all businesses in the central business district. The new changes would also require larger bars to hire South Carolina Law Enforcement certified security guards and force bars to electronically scan IDs starting at 9:00 p.m.

“To shut down the entire economy of Charleston at two o’clock in the morning seems crazy to me,” said Keith Benjamin, owner of Uptown Social on Upper-King Street.

Larger capacity bars and restaurants could be forced to hire SLED certified security guards to man doors, require IDs to be electronically scanned, and a 1:30 a.m. curfew for all businesses in the central business district.

Benjamin said some of the changes could be successful in deterring crime but is unsure all vendors on King Street will be able to afford the changes.

“It’s simply not in their budget and to mandate that right off the rip is not something that a lot of these businesses can afford and frankly would put some of them out of business,” said Benjamin.

King Street vendors say among the potential impacts could be revenue loss. Roy Neal, Owner of El Jefe said vendors and city officials should meet before any changes are made.

“I think they just need to take a step back and talk to all of the business owners and see how it’s going to affect them,” Neal said.

The proposal comes six months after initial changes along King Street were implemented for businesses. Among the changes included a 1:30 a.m. curfew for alcohol sales and limiting traffic to one way on King Street during certain hours over the weekend.

“It took us a few weeks to get to where we wanted to be after that one incident kind of in the mid-spring but we feel great about where we are,” says Benjamin. “So the fact that we saw this conversation start again two weeks ago, we were all blindsided.”

While bars will lose a half-hour of sales, Brian Wolters who owns Gilroy’s Pizza Pub says he’s losing hours of operation and roughly 35% of his anticipated profits.

“Our business model has been the same for 25 years and it’s something that I don’t think, it’s going to be hard,” says Wolters. “I think those are sales that are going to be lost.”

King Street vendors say they welcome some of the changes like electronic ID scans and increased security but are concerned over the financial burden of the proposed curfew. The vendors say they are hopeful city leaders will hear the concerns.

“I think it’s very unfair, very unfair,” said Wolters.

“At the end of the day I think we’re doing everything the right way and we feel really, really good about where our industry is here in Charleston,” said Benjamin.

“The proposed changes are in the early stage, some vendors say they plan to sit down with Charleston City Officials to address their concerns next week. The proposals are expected to go before the city’s Public Safety Committee at the end of October.

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