A mural in the heart of Five Points showing the diversity of the community. Photo by Paxton Rountree
Columbia City Council continues to work on an ordinance to restrict vape shops in Columbia, with a work session scheduled for Sept. 13.
It would restrict vape shops from opening within 1,000 feet of schools and churches and limit how close new shops can be in relation to preexisting stores.
The ordinance defines “vape shop” as any retailer that provides alternative nicotine products, vape products, tobacco products, smoking paraphernalia, or products that contain cannabis or synthetic cannabinoids for the purpose of smoking.
Columbia City Councilman Howard Duvall believes that vape shops give off the wrong image.
“I think for the general public, they hold negative connotations when you see the advertisements in the windows and when you see the people going in and out it, it doesn’t make it any easier to convince people that it’s a safe area to come down with your family,” Duvall said.
Duvall introduced this ordinance with the hope that it will help promote a positive, profitable community.
“We need to control the growth of that retail industry in the city,” Duvall said. And for many who want the restriction, that industry’s local focus is Five Points.
Steve Cook, president of the Five Points Association, is supportive of the ordinance.
“There needs to be a balance in the neighborhood,” Cook said.
For Cook, it is important that Five Points continues to offer an assortment of stores.
Saluda Avenue has a smoke shop, clothing store, dessert restaurant and coffee shop. Along Harden Street sits a barber shop, hookah lounge, women’s clothing store and skateboard shop.
While Cook has no issues with vape shops, he does believe the low barrier of entry is allowing the quick spread of vape shops.
Cook compared having several vape shops to opening ten gas stations in one neighborhood. While they may continue to make money, they do not lend themselves to a diversified community of businesses.
“What we want in Five Points is for building owners, property owners, to bring in tenants that improve the property, or they improve the property themselves,” Cook said. “So that the neighborhood, as a whole, is uplifted.”
ABOUT THE JOURNALISTS
Rountree is a senior journalism major at the University of South Carolina. She’s from New Kent, Va. She is interested in agriculture and has written about Columbia’s farm-to-table movement. She is also interested in sharing more stories about unique personalities and has written about, for example, a professor who teaches simply to impress his in-laws.
Watts is a junior multimedia journalism major with a minor in applied computing. A noted skeptic, Watts spent five months on a long-form story about the history and cultural significance of paranormal research in South Carolina. She scoured through music archives, Great Depression era texts, and centuries of newsprint – debunking such myths as USC’s Third-Eye Man in the process. Watts also reports on outdoor recreation and environmental law. Watts plans on studying constitutional law upon graduation.