Cotton Gin in Columbia is one of the many bars that is now allowed to sell alcohol past 11 p.m. Photos by: Mary Claire Warren
“It’s about time.”
That was the emphatic reaction from Taylor Leeds, a University of South Carolina junior as he considered Gov. Henry McMaster’s announcement that he was lifting his “Last Call” order in South Carolina. This change will allow bars to serve alcohol past 11 p.m.
McMaster also lifted restrictions surrounding social gatherings. Events drawing more than 250 people no longer require approval by the South Carolina Department of Commerce.
This announcement comes after a month of declining COVID-19 cases in South Carolina.
McMaster established the order July 11, 2020, in an attempt to lessen the spread of COVID-19 throughout the state. In the months following, McMaster received many appeals from restaurant and bar owners whose businesses felt the negative impacts of the order.
“I’m thinking it must be a huge relief for the bars,” said Clay James, a graduate student at the University of South Carolina. “COVID has been so hard on bar and restaurant revenue and now they’re finally catching a break.”
Because so many establishments have been struggling during the pandemic, many people in the Columbia area think that this change is a positive one. South Carolina isn’t the only state easing up on COVID-19 restrictions. Both Texas and Mississippi are lifting their statewide mask mandates this week.
“I know the pandemic is still happening, but it’s time we start moving on so we can try to get back to normal,” said Taylor Leeds.
But health officials worry that there may be a spike in cases of COVID-19 if social gatherings are no longer capped at 250. There are also concerns coming from people living in the areas surrounding bars in Five Points.
“This past year has almost been like a break for our neighborhood,” said Mandy Sikes, a nurse living in Shandon. “Now we have to go back to worrying about crazy college kids walking around after midnight.”
When bars initially changed their hours during the summer of 2020, many residents of the nearby neighborhoods were relieved. Despite the concerns for the local economy, Columbia residents found that having bars close early resulted in fewer interactions with college students late at night.
“I think people are going to be going to bars no matter what,” said Clay James., “At least now the bars can make more money and that might result in the economy getting better.”
After eight months of closing early at 11 p.m. bars like Lucky’s and Pinch in Five Points will be allowed to serve alcohol until 2 a.m.
Residents in nearby neighborhoods like Shandon are worried that the removal of the “Last Call” order will result in more issues with college students late at night.