Sheriff's Department supporting proposed bar curfew

Columbia (WACH)--Bar and club patrons all around Richland County may have to go home a little earlier if a uniform 2 a.m. closing time is approved by the county council.

The issue has been a big one in the county for the last two years; but has gained steam in the last few weeks, thanks to two separate incidents in which security guards were shot and killed last month.

Richland County Sheriff Leon Lott is one of the biggest supporters of closing all establishments at 2 a.m.

It is a problem we have had for years. This is nothing new. That is why this conversation came up over two years ago with Council Member Jim Manning."

Manning wanted his district to implement the closure in 2010 after hearing complaints that the clubs were near neighborhoods. But it did not have much support. Critics said it would give businesses in other districts a competitive advantage. But the new proposal would be county wide.

Lott said other crimes like robberies and vandalism also occur overnight. It would help his department patrol the streets better.

"The county doesn't have a bar area or a night club area like the city of Columbia does. We have them all over. They are mostly in neighborhoods.

But not everyone is saying cheers. County Councilman Kelvin Washington told other media outlets he thinks it will hurt those businesses in an already tough economy. WACH Fox tried to contact Councilman Washington, but did not hear back.

Lott said the choice should not be hard.

"That is what county council will have to look at. Which do they feel is more important; saving people's lives? Or business owners making a little bit of money?

The council will discuss the proposal Tuesday at 6 p.m. at the council chambers. They encourage the public to attend.