The following are advocacy updates impacting local-independent businesses at the local, state, or federal level. For questions or more info, please contact Director of Operations, Lauren Gellatly, at lauren@lowcountrylocalfirst.org.

Update on Expanded Outdoor Dining Regulations [LOCAL]

Several Lowcountry municipalities loosened regulations during COVID to allow restaurants and bars more opportunity to create or expand outdoor dining. Due to the popularity, Charleston City Council is considering making these regulations permanent and approved the first reading of an updated sidewalk dining ordinance in October, however the council deferred action in the Nov 23rd meeting. LLF advocated for removing red tape to allow for expanded outdoor dining starting in May 2020 and supports action in local municipalities to make temporary programs permanent.

Take Action: Contact your Charleston City Councilmember to weigh in before the December 7th meeting when they will likely have a second and final vote. 

Charleston Considers New Regulations on Late Night Businesses [LOCAL]

At an October open house forum held by the City of Charleston for late night establishments in the Central Business District in downtown Charleston, Mayor Tecklenburg announced the City of Charleston would temporarily table proposed increased regulations after hearing from many of the bar owners in the upper King Street area. At the June 30th council meeting earlier this year, the city previously decreased hours street food vendors are allowed to operate, requiring they close at 1:30am. The proposed changes are tabled until January or later.

Take Action: Review the proposed ordinance changes here; contact City Council here; or submit public comment to City Council here

$8.8 Billion coming to SC through American Rescue Plan Act [STATE]

The South Carolina legislature will be determining the use of about $2.5 Billion of the state’s overall American Rescue Plan Act funds totaling $8.8 Billion, according to Together SC, once they return to session in January. Meanwhile, state legislators may return to Columbia in December for redistricting. Lowcountry Local First continues to advocate for dedicated funding to support small businesses in our state.

Take Action: View the ARPA allocations for all SC municipalities here via the Municipal Association of SC. 

Legislation to reform Amazon/Big Tech [FEDERAL]

Citing anti-competitive practices and adverse impacts on small businesses, there is growing bi-partisan movement to reform Amazon and other ‘Big Tech’ companies through antitrust legislation, which has been introduced in the House and Senate, and addressed through executive orders. Learn more about antitrust and the small business impacts via Small Business Rising.

Take Action: Has your business been impacted? Tell us your story here or call our Story Box at 843-310-1826 and leave us a voicemail with your business story

Updates on Vaccine Mandates for Companies with 100+ Employees [FEDERAL]

In November, OSHA (Occupational Health and Safety Administration) announced that it “has suspended activities related to the implementation and enforcement of the ETS [Emergency Temporary Standard] pending future developments in the litigation,” however businesses are advised the mandate could be reinstated at any time.

Take Action: Details can be found here and background on the vaccine requirements for private employers with 100 or more employees can be found on the SC Employers’ Blog here

Federal COVID Small Business Loans 12/31 Application Deadline [FEDERAL]

The SBA announced updated guidance for COVID Economic Injury Disaster Loan (EIDL) program applicants to better serve small business owners in need, while funding remains available. EIDL loan and Targeted Advance applications will be accepted until December 31 and will continue to be processed after this date until funds are exhausted. 

Take Action: Learn more and apply here.

4 Small Business Benefits from the Bipartisan Infrastructure Deal [FEDERAL]

The Bipartisan Infrastructure Deal was signed into law on Nov 15th and the Biden Administration reports the following expected benefits for small businesses: 1) reduced shipping delays with upgrades to transportation infrastructure; 2) expanded broadband internet access to reach customers and employees; 3) expanded and more equitable access to government contracts; and 4) increased support for small businesses in underserved communities by expanding the Minority Business Development Agency (MBDA).

Save Restaurants & Bars – Refill the Restaurant Revitalization Fund [FEDERAL]

Since the beginning of March 2020, the leisure and hospitality industry has accounted for 47.1% of all jobs lost in South Carolina. Yet, only one-third of SC restaurants that applied for the federal COVID assistance program – the Restaurant Revitalization Fund – received funding before the fund was spent down. In December, the U.S. Senate will begin voting on a continuing resolution to potentially support a second round of funding.

Take Action: The Independent Restaurant Coalition has this handy guide to reaching out to Congress to advocate for refilling the fund.

Lauren Gellatly
Director of Operations at Lowcountry Local First