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S.C. business owner confronts McMaster on when ‘Last Call’ order will be lifted

South Carolina Gov Henry McMaster announces the donation of 200,000 face masks on Oct. 8, 2020.
South Carolina Gov Henry McMaster announces the donation of 200,000 face masks on Oct. 8, 2020.(WRDW)
Published: Oct. 27, 2020 at 9:45 AM EDT
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MYRTLE BEACH, S.C. (WMBF) - South Carolina Gov. Henry McMaster’s “Last Call” order is working the “last nerve” of some Grand Strand businesses.

This comes after McMaster refused to provide a timeline during his visit to the Grand Strand last Friday, on how soon bars and restaurants can serve alcohol after 11 p.m.

McMaster passed an ordinance back in July, prohibiting alcohol sales inside bars and restaurants, in the hopes of discouraging young adults from packing into those establishments late at night. McMaster said that would in turn help to reduce the spread of the COVID-19, particularly young adults sharing spaces with populations vulnerable to the virus.

WMBF News has spoken to several restaurants and bars since the ‘Last Call’ order went into effect, some of them stating the order was already impacting their bottom line.

The owner of Foster’s Cafe and Bar in Myrtle Beach agrees.

WMBF News first introduced you to the owner of the cafe Donald Fonda back in April, after he received a citation for disobeying the governor’s order which banned people from dining inside. Since then, Fonda says he had his day in court which he says helped is business move forward during this pandemic.

“I went to court, the officer gave me choice to plead innocent or guilty and if I plead guilty, [I’d receive a] fine,” Fonda said. “It was $100. I can live with that because I was probably in the wrong. Then went on from there until July went the governor decided to close all the bars down at 11 p.m. and we’ve been struggling ever since.”

Fonda told me he’s seen a 40% drop in business since July when the ‘Last Call’ order was put into effect.

Instead of sending another email to the governor’s office, Fonda told the governor face-to-face, how the last three months under the order, has impacted his bottom line.

McMaster was in Myrtle Beach Friday to promote the Minority and Small Business Relief Grant Program, which took place at the International Culinary Institute of Myrtle Beach. Later on during the event, McMaster answered questions and concerns from people in the Grand Strand community, including Fonda.

Fonda told McMaster the last call order is hurting his business and requested to know when the 11 p.m. time ban could be lifted. McMaster told Fonda he couldn’t make any promises on when that could realistically happen.

“We’ve heard from a lot of people and a lot of businesses we’re taking that into consideration,” McMaster said to Fonda.

McMaster was later questioned about the ‘Last Call’ timeline by the press. McMaster said, “We can make changes when the data and the experience shows it.”

Based on how the governor responded on Friday, Fonda said he’s a bit concerned about losing more business if the ordinance remains much longer. He hopes McMaster will provide businesses a timeline soon before it’s too late for some ‘mom and pop’ shops to stay afloat.

“I know it’s a tough decision to determine if you’re a college bar or not a college bar,” Fonda said. " I think it should be made up to the municipality whether bars should close at a certain time. My employees are on partial unemployment, only working three days a week, only because football is on Sunday. My wife and I some months we get paid, sometimes we don’t. We’re just trying to push through this."

The Department of Health and Environmental Control’s latest disease activity report put 27 out of 46 South Carolina counties in the high-spread level for the coronavirus. It has some wondering which data the governor referenced as showing that the ‘Last Call’ order is working.

WMBF News reached out to the governor’s office and DHEC for that data. We’re still waiting to hear back.

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