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Going upscale in Charleston can be iffy

Charleston Mayor Danny Jones wants to shut down the Impulse bar at 205 Capitol St. following a brawl in the wee hours of Sunday.

The news account said someone stabbed a teenager four times. This led to the suspension of the bar's liquor license for 10 days.

"It's just another incident at the crime factory," Jones said.

A month earlier, miscreants attacked two men outside the bar.

Over the years, the site has had a series of restaurants, nightclubs and bars, which have all tried to overcome the depopulation of downtown Charleston after dark.

In the 1990s, Jones operated an upscale restaurant there, so he knows full well what any bar is up against.

Impulse succeeded Banana Joe's, which opened in 2003 as part of an Ohio-based chain of such bars.

Mayor Jones moved against Banana Joe's after it hosted the filming of a "Girls Gone Wild" video.

In 2007, after much hesitation, Jones supported the efforts by Janet Amores to replace Banana Joe's with her bar called Impulse.

The plan then was to make the bar upscale, complete with a dress code.

"It will be a classy place for people to come to after dinner or the country club," Amores said in 2007.

"I hope it will be a place for someone like the mayor or governor to come to. It's not going to be sleazy. Definitely no wet T-shirt contests."

That was a terrific idea, but unfortunately there is not enough of an upscale population in Charleston to make a go of it.

Five years after Impulse opened, it has become a trouble spot.

The city seems to have tried to work with management, but Police Chief Brent Webster expressed his frustration to reporter Ashley B. Craig.

"We cannot babysit that place," Webster said.

"For years we've tried to maintain a presence down there, but when you've got that many people and you add alcohol,  there are going to be problems. But we're not seeing that level of disturbances anywhere else but at Impulse."  

As a casual observer, I will note that having the last call for alcohol at 2:45 a.m. may have contributed to the incident.

Closing the place at midnight would mean losing three precious and profitable hours a night.

But an earlier closing might make the place safer.

Jones is the expert, though, and he knows the restaurant business better than anyone in politics.

"I wish they'd never opened," Jones told Craig.

The property has been through enough changes over the years for the message to get through that it can be tough to run a business at night on Capitol Street.

Charleston is enlivened by  young professionals, but most of them don't stay up until 2:45 a.m.

I am realistic. There may not be enough jobs in the area to attract the critical mass of young professionals to create the demand for such restaurants.

Having bars where people get stabbed at 2:45 a.m. surely will not help attract such a crowd.

Surber may be reached at


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