Five Points has been a cultural center of Columbia for years, but recently, it has become a gauntlet for local businesses. Many of these changes have created an unclear future for this pillar of Columbia.
For starters, COVID-19 posed a challenge to all local businesses, and many previously struggling business have gone under as a result of lockdowns and minimal business.
Beyond that, the Five Points bars faced a "reckoning" when South Carolina's legal coding challenged the bars' liquor licenses. Bars such as Moosehead and Pavlov's have now closed permanently, and Five Points classics, such as 43-year-old Yesterday's Tavern, have gone out of business.
A group of students has responded to the uncertainty surrounding Five Points by creating an organization to petition and to influence change.
The Save5Points team started with an Instagram account, @save5points, around early August by a third-year political science student at USC who asked to remain anonymous. The group defines itself on Instagram as a "student campaign to save our bars & restaurants of 5 Points" and has now grown to over 700 followers.
The roots of this team are based in a campaign for the upcoming mayoral race this November and the legislative elections in 2022.
Businesses are not moving back into the area "due to permitting laws" and these things "are targeting these businesses and making it impossible for people to keep jobs,” the founder said.
The team said it feels the upcoming race will dictate the fate of Five Points.
For the students running the account, the goal is simple – to inform students of future elections and campaign for Daniel Rickenmann for mayor of Columbia.
"All we need to win this election, or to get who we need to get in office, is like, 2,500 votes," according to the founder's estimates.
To get votes, it plans on having a table at the organization fair and has teamed up with Alex Waelde, the marketing director for several bars in Five Points. The team said it plans to educate and register members of Greek life to help reach its goal.
The bar changes have come mostly from local officials and residents of the Five Points area working together in an effort to make Five Points a safer and more comprehensive part of the community.
This effort brought a local desire to the ambitious legislative process of changing the state liquor laws to require a percentage of income come from hot food, resulting in the some bars closing, while others are reopening with stricter guidelines.
Besides the bars in Five Points' complications, many storefronts have also undergone complications from various factors. Since the end of last May, 33 storefronts have closed, leaving a great vacancy in the area.
According to the Save5Points team, some blame unfair taxation, while others say the pandemic was the breaking point.
"It's mostly the bars and hospitality trade that has departed. There's still plenty of daytime retail business in this neighborhood," Don McCallister, co-owner of Loose Lucy's on Saluda Avenue, said.
A bright future for Five Points is still possible, as there have been recent announcements of new businesses, such as Blue Pizza and Jack Brown's Beer and Burger Joint.
Other possibilities include a boutique hotel, with retail on the ground floor and condominiums above, in the lot of the closed Wells Fargo, according to Kelly Tabor, co-owner of Good for the Sole Shoes.
"We want the neighborhood to be full businesses. And, yeah, as vibrant and alive as it can be," McCallister said.
Tabor said he has not really felt any pushback from politicians, but he said nighttime bars have been issue of debate in the past couple years.
"That's the one thing about Five Points that makes it unique to other portions of the city, that it's mostly locally owned mom and pop shops, and we want to keep it that way," Tabor said.