The air in Five Points has changed.
A district locally characterized by its nightlife, and those who frequented such establishments, has gone noticeably quiet.
Last semester several popular bars, notably Pavlov’s Bar and Moosehead Saloon, shut their doors for good. After a hiatus due to a suspended liquor license, Breakers Bar & Grill has opened its doors again.
Other popular spots, such as Village Idiot and Jake’s of Columbia, escaped unscathed and have remained open. It may not be enough: as of June 2021, Five Points has over 30 vacant storefronts. For a district plagued by noise complaints, the silence suddenly doesn’t seem so welcome.
Reagan Hall, a third-year advertising student and server at Village Idiot, has certainly felt it.
“It used to be, like a year ago, when I got off work it would be impossible to drive through Five Points because of all the people going out to the bars and just walking around,” Hall said. “But now it's, like, not bad at all. I feel like there's barely anyone out, even on the weekends”.
While Thomas Dugas, general manager of another popular bar, the Cotton Gin, echoed that sentiment, he also touched on a new trend in the demographics of his clientele.
"I can't really speak on exactly what it could be, but we have a much older demographic this September than we did last September,” said Dugas. “I would guess that the average age of our customers on the weekends would fall somewhere between 24 and 30."
With fewer businesses in the area, it follows that there would be less consumer spending in the area.
"I do think that some of the new rules and regulations will make it difficult for the number of bars that currently exist in Five Points,” Dugas said. “I think there will either be more bars (to) close, or the business model will have to change in order for some other places to survive."
For some lawmakers, this is a welcome change.
A new Department of Transportation project aims to reinvent the historic neighborhood into a safer, more walkable “village”.
State Representative Seth Rose is leading the charge to change the atmosphere of the district by proposing changes to a popular stretch of Harden Street.
The road, spanning from Blossom Street to Gervais Street, currently consists of four lanes of busy traffic. In the new plan, this section would undergo a “road diet”, which consists of taking the existing lanes down to two. The additional lanes on either side will remain as “offloading” lanes for service trucks or emergency vehicles.
Rep. Rose is hopeful these changes will drive more business to the area.
“I think a lot of people who normally don't go down to Five Points to shop or (who are) discouraged to, I mean, are going to start doing that,” Rose said.
According to data collected by Smart Growth America, 2016-2019 marked the four deadliest years for pedestrians in three decades. In 2019, South Carolina was ranked the eighth most dangerous state for pedestrians.
“It’s going to make me want to come down there with my kids during the day and spend money,” Rose said. “I have a golf cart, I’m going to feel like I can go down there and I’m not getting on I-77.”
The project will cost an estimated $4.85 million and has been fully secured in the budget.