By Ashley Barker
Published Jan. 15, 2014
During its regularly scheduled meeting Tuesday night, Charleston City Council approved a first reading of a bill about drinking alcohol in private parking lots.
An ordinance was discussed to amend Chapter 3, section 32 of the city code. The ordinance would include a provision to make it a criminal offense to carry an open vessel containing beer, wine or any alcoholic beverage, without the property owner’s permission, in any private parking lot that is open for the public’s use.
The current ordinance already prohibits carrying or consumption of alcohol on city streets, sidewalks, parks, playgrounds, alleys and public ways.
District 1 Councilman F. Gary White Jr. questioned the reason for the amendment, and Charleston Police Chief Greg Mullen said it was in response to convenience store parking lot crimes.
He said patrons of bars and clubs that close at 2 a.m. are moving to nearby convenience store parking lots to continue partying and drinking.
“People are coming outside of those establishments and consuming alcohol beverages, which are then resulting in shootings and other types of violent acts,” Mullen said. “What we’re trying to do is give the police officers the opportunity to intervene in those situations before they become violent.”
With the amendment, officers would be allowed to arrest people for drinking, prior to being called for a disruption or other criminal act.
“In a lot of cases, you have a female employee inside the convenience store at 3 o’clock in the morning, and you have 100 people on the parking lot. She’s not going to go out there and intervene and tell those people to leave,” Mullen said.
The amendment would not apply to group functions that are held with the permission of the property owner and with a permit, such as a sanctioned tailgate party prior to a sporting event, the chief said.
“Currently, our hands are tied until something happens,” Mullen said. “We’re getting called and expending a lot of resources that we could address proactively if we had the ability to go onto these parking lots.”
At the beginning of the meeting, new District 2 Councilman Rodney Williams was sworn into office. He replaced Blake Hallman.
Re-elected council members from even-numbered districts were also sworn into office: Robert Mitchell, District 4; William Dudley Gregorie, District 6; Michael Seekings, District 8; Dean Riegel, District 10; and Kathleen Wilson, District 12.
District 7 Councilman Perry Waring did not attend the meeting. Mayor Joe Riley said he was absent because of the death of his 16-year-old grandson.
Reach Ashley Barker at 843-849-3144 or @AshleyNBarker.