In order to help stop the spread of COVID-19 among the 21-30 age range, Gov. Henry McMaster announced his Last Call executive order Friday, which bans the sale of alcohol at restaurants and bars after 11 p.m., beginning Saturday, July 11.
"Many of the young people in the state and around the country seem to not be taking this virus as seriously as they should," McMaster said. "The younger generations need to realize how much is at stake if we don't see these infection rates dropping."
The executive order does not apply to alcohol sold at convenience stores, grocery stores and liquor stores, but will apply to the around 8,000 on-premise alcohol sale permits across the state.
Restaurants and bars that violate the order, McMaster said, will face fines and the possibility of having their beer, wine or liquor permits suspended.
"This is a mandate. This is an order the state can enforce," the Governor said. "We intend to and we believe this will help in reducing the spread of this virus."
Dr. Joan Duwve, director of Public Health with the S.C. Department of Health and Environmental Control, said that 22 percent of all confirmed cases in the state are in people ages 21-30. She also noted that 42 percent of all COVID-19 cases in the state have been reported within the last two weeks.
"Think about what those numbers are going to look like two weeks from now if we continue to observe people not wearing masks and not social distancing," Dr. Duwve said.
McMaster said that due to COVID-19, businesses have suffered, livelihoods have suffered, and children have suffered as a result of being out of school, as well as the "unintended consequences" such as depression, stress, and anxiety due to isolation.
Hartley Powell with the S.C. Department of Revenue said that they won't go into a business and take a license without a warning first.
Jason Klocker, who owns Klocker's Tavern just south of Myrtle Beach, said he didn't think the order would be effective.
"Clearly, he doesn’t realize people are just going to go out three hours earlier," Klocker said. "He hasn’t accomplished a single solitary thing other than decreasing my businesses. Which I guess is better than closing it."
The bar owner estimated that he does 40 percent of his business after 11 p.m., but said he wasn't sure how much the new order would affect sales.
"People would just likely come out a little earlier than they normally would," he said. "I don’t know. It really doesn’t make much sense to me either way."
In mid-March, McMaster closed down bars and restaurants, and reopened them in early May. But Klocker said McMaster, along with other states throughout the country, ignored the crowds of people who weren't social distancing while congregating inside retailers like Lowes and Sam's Club.
"The governor is trying to back-peddle his mistakes and it’s falling on our shoulders," Klocker said.
McMaster fielded questions about whether or not this order would be successful, and why he wouldn't order a mandate on mask-wearing statewide.
"The state authorities cannot enforce a statewide mandate on five million people," McMaster said, noting that it's different than a seatbelt law. "We've talked about this."
Dwayne Parrish, director of S.C. Parks, Recreation and Tourism, said that recent news surrounding COVID-19 outbreaks has hurt the comeback of tourism.
"I implore everyone, residents and visitors alike - wear a mask, keep your distance, wash your hands," Parrish said. "Enjoy all S.C. has to offer, but do it wisely."
The executive order regarding alcohol sales will be in effect until further notice.
"We hope we don't have to take anyone's licenses but we're ready to enforce it," McMaster said.