ROCK HILL, S.C. (WBTV) - South Carolina’s Last Call order is no more.
Governor Henry McMaster lifted the order starting on Monday. People could probably hear the collective sigh of bar and restaurant owners alike. The governor sites vaccines and low testing numbers as the reasons he lifted the last call order.
This order kept bars and restaurants from selling alcohol after 11 p.m. for eight months. When McMaster signed it, he said young people were going out to bars then coming back to infect their grandparents. Now most of the most vulnerable South Carolinians are already vaccinated.
Several bar and restaurants owners across Fort Mill and Rock Hill used the words “hype” to describe what it was like to be able to have last call when they felt like it. They all say this decision could save a lot of businesses struggling to only make money in such a limited time.
”The majority of our sales is alcohol. It has me excited and I’m waiting for us to go all the way to 2 a.m. and have a good night,” says Jesse Freeman, General Manger for TimeOut bar in Rock Hill.
TimeOut was one of the many bars and restaurants that lost revenue twice. Once when indoor seating was banned and then again with Last Call in July. Now they feel they could be getting closer to normal.
Monday was a typical day at the bar. The drinks flow as the music blares, but anyone walking in could feel the difference a lifted order makes already.
”I’m a little excited,” says Freeman. “Mostly overwhelmed with how we’re gonna take on the task of extending the hours.”
For the first time in months, Freeman has a choice. He chose to ease back in adding back an hour until they hit the regular 2 a.m. mark.
”That patron said I’m not ready to party until 2 a.m. I think I’d lose my stuff if I partied until then. So that way we can build the tolerance, if you will,” says Freeman.
Customers were not always been understanding though especially when the order started.
”People at first were not so receptive,” he says. “It was more or less, well nobody’s gonna know let’s just do it.”
With that worry off his shoulder, Freeman turns to other concerns like regaining lost sales and keeping enough hand sanitizer on deck.
”This is probably the first time in my career we go through cases in a week of sanitizer,” he explains.
He leaves those worries for another day as he focuses on the customers happy to get back to normal.
”It’s a step in the right direction,” says one man sitting at the bar. “As long as you don’t drink and drive drunk I agree with it.”
Something the Department of Health and Environmental Control Director stressed is still wearing a mask and socially distancing no matter what hour a person is in the bar.