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Restaurant owners ask Governor McMaster to lift 11 pm 'Last Call Order' before NYE

Many restaurant and hotel owners want the 11 p.m. alcohol cut off to be lifted before New Year's Eve.

COLUMBIA, S.C. — South Carolina’s 11 p.m. cut off for alcohol sales is the last COVID-19 restriction in place statewide. Now the South Carolina Restaurant & Lodging Association (SCRLA) is asking Governor Henry McMaster to lift it before New Year's Eve.

The 'Last Call Order' was enacted in July by McMaster to help slow the spread of COVID-19. President of the SCRLA, Bobby Williams, said getting rid of it would help many businesses financially. 

“A lot of our members are restaurants and hotels that have these large functions planned, and we were hoping they could stay open at least ‘til 12 o'clock to bring in the new year," said Williams.

Venues can stay open after 11pm under the order, but Williams said it's not worth it for most places if they can’t serve alcohol. He added that New Year’s Eve is one of the busiest nights of the year in the hospitality industry.

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"We know that the infections are going up right now, we see that," said Williams. "But we honestly feel that restaurants, hotels that are socially distanced are much safer than a private home. If people aren’t going to go out, then they’re going to go to someone’s home for a party."

The Governor’s Office told News19 that McMaster is considering the idea. Spokesperson Brian Symmes wrote in a statement, “Of course he’s contemplated it. And as he has all along, the governor has solicited advice and information from a variety of stakeholders on the issue. He will make a public announcement if – and when – he decides to lift the order…”

But not all restaurant owners are happy about this. Ricky Mollohan, co-owner of Mr. Friendly’s says lifting the restriction isn’t enough help for struggling businesses.

"It’s not a solution. It’s addressing one issue," said Mollohan. "Look – do I think that they should lift the 11 p.m. thing? I do. But you can’t just do that. That’s the best thing they’ve come up with in the last seven months?"

Mollohan was unfortunately forced to close his other restaurant, Solstice Kitchen, earlier this year because of the pandemic.

"If you’re a small business owner, you can only do so much right now here in the restaurant business. The smaller you are, the more chef-driven, dine-in that you are, the harder this fight is," Mollohan said.

He added that small businesses need financial aid right now, and lifting the order doesn't bring them that.

"This is a money issue. There are so many ways the governor could help small restaurants across this state. I know there isn’t any one answer, but they’re just skirting what the biggest issue is here," said Mollohan.

RELATED: Columbia restaurants trying to survive amid pandemic

No decision has been made on whether the Last Call Order will be lifted yet, but Bobby Williams said he thinks they have a good chance since the Governor is "pro-business". 

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