Bar owners oppose closing-time rule

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AIKEN --- Several Aiken County bar owners told county council members Tuesday night they are against a proposed change that would require them to close at 2 a.m., arguing it would harm their business.

"Hold individual bar owners responsible," said Michelle Shackford, the owner of Hozes, a private club in Clearwater. "Don't make me responsible for other bar owners."

Despite the pleas from such businesses, the council voted in favor of a second reading of the ordinance change Tuesday night, leaving only a third and final reading for approval at the council's next meeting in March.

In response to shootings at bars in Aiken County in the past three months, Sheriff Michael Hunt approached the council last month requesting the change to require businesses serving alcohol to close at 2 a.m. Private clubs in the county have to stop selling liquor at 2 a.m., but they can continue to sell beer and wine.

Pete Gonshorowski, the owner of Palmetto Tavern, told council members Tuesday night he bought the bar about a month ago and if the new closing times are approved, it would hurt his business.

"We've sunk everything we had in this convenience store and bar," he said. "I'm sympathetic with the sheriff, but I think there's more than one solution."

Sheriff Hunt told the council he didn't request the ordinance change to put people out of business, but "... to be consistent with other governing bodies and to be proactive."

Aiken, North Augusta, Richmond and Columbia counties all have ordinances requiring bars to close at 2 a.m. Sheriff Hunt said that because bars in Aiken County stay open past 2 a.m., he has to deal with the overflow from establishments in other jurisdictions.

Although voting for the second reading, some members said they had mixed feelings about the change.

"I don't believe in government being involved more than necessary in business, but this is a safety issue," Councilwoman Kathy Rawls said. "I hate to see everybody punished for a few."

Reach Michelle Guffey at (803) 648-1395, ext. 110, or michelle.guffey@augustachronicle.com

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As It Is
2
Points
As It Is 02/18/09 - 02:13 am
0
0
Sheriff Hunt is a great

Sheriff Hunt is a great Sheriff and is making a proposal which he feels is best for the county. However, that being said, government should limit itself to the very minimual intrusion with the operations of businesses, especially those for adults who are not breaking laws or ordinances. The time of day means absolutely nothing as many persons work shift work, unique hours, etc. and often times food and beverage employees never get a chance to go out until 2am. There rarely is a need to change a law or rule for everyone simply because of the actions of a few and yet schools and governmental bodies do this all of the time because it is the easy way out, not the best thing to do. How about this? If bars have problems after 2am, and/or fail to follow the exsisting laws and take the necessary safety precautions, etc. then simply have the commission have that establishment close at 2am or even earlier if necessary as part of the probation they need to be placed on. Deal with individual establishments who have problems continually and leave legitimate hardworking law abiding business owners alone. These shady bars will clean up their acts or close their doors.

patriciathomas
42
Points
patriciathomas 02/18/09 - 02:17 am
0
0
I can see Sheriff Hunt's

I can see Sheriff Hunt's position, but using the reasoning reported here, wouldn't closing all of the bars all of the time end all shootings? One size fits all legislation seldom makes sense when examined. This seems like another brick in the wall against personal responsibility.

RogueKnight
221
Points
RogueKnight 02/18/09 - 08:35 am
0
0
While I sympathize with the

While I sympathize with the intent of this legislation, I agree that it punishes establishments that aren't part of the problem. Perhaps Sheriff Hunt can follow Richmond County's lead and have the county commission pull the business licenses of the establishments that have repeat occurrences of shootings/stabbings/beatings.

augboi4life
0
Points
augboi4life 02/18/09 - 08:54 am
0
0
Sheriff Hunt said that

Sheriff Hunt said that because bars in Aiken County stay open past 2 a.m., he has to deal with the overflow from establishments in other jurisdictions. ..............Sorry, I don't see where there is legal reasoning behind this. I understand your clubs or bars might be having trouble but to blame the early stoppage of alcohol on outsiders is really beyond me.

soldout
1280
Points
soldout 02/18/09 - 09:18 am
0
0
There is an old saying that

There is an old saying that is probably just as trure today; "nothing good happens after midnight"

creolechick
72
Points
creolechick 02/18/09 - 10:48 am
0
0
In a time when money and

In a time when money and county budgets are tight, I think Sheriff Hunt is right. It does not make sense to have to spend extra county dollars to pay extra payroll to keep things safe after 2 am. If all the bars closed at 2 am, there would be less people going out. Most people would go home when forced out of the bars.

mad_max
0
Points
mad_max 02/18/09 - 11:00 am
0
0
I do not live in Aiken county

I do not live in Aiken county but being an old "rounder" in my earlier years I will say this. The people who get drunk and cause problems at 2 A.M. will just go out and get drunk a little earlier. When you close at midnight you will just throw these same drunks out of the bar and on to the roads, fast food joints, etc. earlier so they can mix with teenagers and families on the way home from the movies, dates, etc. There will still be "victims" but they will just be different victims. The only difference will be that only half of the people the sheriff has to deal with will be drunk.

toldya
0
Points
toldya 02/18/09 - 11:22 am
0
0
They ought to implement the 3

They ought to implement the 3 strikes and you license is gone rule. That is a compromise. Bar owners need to understand that they are ultimately responsible for patrons that are served and thereby can become drunk unless under the watchful eye of the server. I beleive metal detectors/wands should be mandatory in bars. I'm wondering if this new ordinance also applies to "private clubs" as well.

moneyman1035
0
Points
moneyman1035 02/18/09 - 11:31 am
0
0
I agree with Mad Max, I

I agree with Mad Max, I understand what Sheriff Hunt is talking about but from my understandings, Aiken County or the City of North Augusta has shut the two trouble spots down in North Augusta... So why punish the rest of the owners... And as Max said you will be putting more drunks on the road with families and children...

Armywife
0
Points
Armywife 02/18/09 - 11:35 am
0
0
Business in the county do not

Business in the county do not have business licenses, so the local government cannot use that as a threat although I would think they could go after their liquor licenses. Actually, I was astonished to find out that bars in the county could stay open past 2 a.m. and could still serve alcohol. I have never heard of that. If they're going to stay open past 2 a.m., I don't think they should be allowed to serve alcohol, and yes, beer and wine are alcoholic drinks.

77777
0
Points
77777 02/18/09 - 11:46 am
0
0
I agree with the notion of

I agree with the notion of stopping the sale of alcohol at 1:am or so, but if you close the establishment, then the drinkers will have to leave, and they will be driving on our roads. However, maybe by cutting someone off at 1:am or so, and allowing them to sober up for a few hours before driving it would save lives.

disssman
6
Points
disssman 02/18/09 - 12:58 pm
0
0
Good job Sherriff Hunt. Now

Good job Sherriff Hunt. Now to be "proactive and consistant with other governing bodies", how about shutting down your speed traps and put speeds at a reasonable limit!!

Armywife
0
Points
Armywife 02/18/09 - 03:09 pm
0
0
DOT sets speed limits not the

DOT sets speed limits not the sheriff's office. The sheriff's office can petition the state to lower or raise speed limits.

toldya
0
Points
toldya 02/18/09 - 04:49 pm
0
0
Armywife: State highways are

Armywife: State highways are regulated by DOT, local streets are not they are governed by the local government.

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