By Mike McCombs
As COVID-19 safety measures related to the sale of alcohol and mass gatherings came to an end Monday, March 1, several Beaufort bars and those that frequent them took advantage of the return to normalcy.
There was a steady stream of customers inside Hemingway’s on the Beaufort waterfront, though it was far from crowded. Several patrons could be heard exclaiming how strange it felt to be in a bar as the clock approached midnight after months of early last calls.
“I know it’s not what’s best for their tip jar, but this is really just about perfect,” one female Hemingway’s customer said, referring to the smaller crowds.
Hemingway’s joined Crybabies Tavern and Rosie O’Grady’s among the establishments immediately returning to late-night hours.
On Sunday, when asked what the return to normal hours meant for her business, Hemingway’s owner Kanani Robinson called it “huge,” saying the late hours account for somewhere between 30 and 40 percent of her regular business.
It may be huge for business, but is it safe?
South Carolina’s COVID-19 infection, hospitalization and death rates are all improving and have reached the pre-surge levels of this past November. But November levels were still significantly higher than levels last summer.
It’s better in S.C. now that it has been for the previous three months, but it’s still far worse that it was for the first nine months of the pandemic.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, only three states – New York, New Jersey and Rhode Island – have higher rates of new cases per capita.
Still, in addition to relaxing the rules for serving alcohol, South Carolina Department of Commerce approval for events involving more than 250 people will no longer be required.
“With the spread of the virus consistently decreasing across the country and more of the most vulnerable South Carolinians being vaccinated every day, I believe these targeted and limited safety measures are no longer necessary,” Gov. Henry McMaster said in a press release. “The virus is still among us and we all must continue to make responsible decisions to take care of ourselves and our loved ones, but those decisions are for South Carolinians to make.”
For information about how COVID-19 continues to impact South Carolinians, and the 30-day trends for “key indicators” visit SCDHEC’s website here.
According to the Governor’s release, “South Carolinians are still strongly encouraged to take appropriate safety precautions, including practicing social distancing and wearing face coverings when social distancing is not possible.”
Mike McCombs is the Editor of The Island News and can be reached at TheIslandNews@gmail.com.
Above: Customers enjoy themselves Monday night at Hemingway’s in Beaufort as the clock nears midnight. Photo by Mike McCombs.