Alcohol sales end at midnight, city tells bars and restaurants
By Bobby Bryant, Editor
Effective immediately, restaurants and bars in the Darlington city limits won’t be allowed to serve alcohol after midnight. Darlington City Council took a second and final vote Nov. 9 on the plan, which received a tentative OK last month. Council approved the measure unanimously. The plan won’t affect convenience stores, only establishments that serve alcohol for drinking on the premises. Darlington Police Chief Kelvin Washington pushed for the plan at council’s October meeting, calling it a public-safety measure not aimed at existing establishments, but at establishments that might come along. “What we’re trying to do is put something in place for the future,” Washington told council last month. “If we have someone that comes in, that wants to come into town, and open a lounge or a nightclub, (then) there’s some language in the ordinance to at least protect the safety of the citizens.” In October, council members Elaine Reed and Sheila Baccus opposed the plan, and Reed quizzed Washington about his reasons for backing the proposal. “I would like to know how you got to this,” Reed told Washington. “ … I want to know what it is that got you so passionate about presenting this.” Washington told her “it might be best” to “discuss some of these things” in executive session. It’s not known what Washington told council in private, but it seemed to alleviate council members’ concerns; there was no debate Nov. 9. In other business last week: — County Recreation Director Lee Andrews updated council on a small eSports program the city has begun, and said he was glad to hear that the Darlington County School District is considering starting an eSports team. Basically, it’s athletics for kids who aren’t athletic – teams face off on computers, competing in various types of games. “Do it,” Andrews advised the school district. “This has been the most rewarding event … that I’ve done. These kids come in, and they’re just introverted. … They have come out of their shell. We’ve been doing (eSports) for about six weeks. I haven’t said anything about it because we’ve been learning together, as we go along. “But it is the best thing we’ve done in a long time. … Although we’ve only got six kids in it right now, it’s going to grow. We took them to Florence two or three weeks ago; they competed in their first tournament. … The kids that are involved, they are from 9 to 14 years old. These aren’t kids that are going to play sports. … These are kids that are probably going to code software one day. “They learn teamwork, which is the same thing they would learn on a ballfield.” — Resident Jannie Lathan, in a personal appearance before council, raised issues about the city’s share of American Rescue Plan money. The city expects to get nearly $3 million from President Biden’s massive plan that is designed to help cities and counties across the country recover from the COVID crisis. Lathan told council some of the ARP money should be used to roll back an increase in water-service fees in 2020, “in the middle of a pandemic.” She said the city’s decision to raise rates – a decision that council described as unavoidable – “imposed an additional financial hardship and burden” on many families using the city’s water system. — Also, council endorsed proceeding with plans to expand the North Street/Oak Street Historic District after hearing from several residents in that area. A public hearing on the issue will be scheduled in the next few months.