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Charleston begins enforcing sidewalk ordinances

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With the return of crowds, Charleston business operators are also facing a return to prohibitions against sandwich boards and other devices used to spark business when COVID-19 brought commerce to a crawl.

Officers stopped enforcing city ordinance Sec. 54-404 during the heights of the pandemic, allowing restaurant operators and other merchants to place sandwich boards and pedestal signs along sidewalks to drum up much-needed business, according to a city announcement.

Recently, as people returned to a pre-pandemic lifestyle, the sidewalks are crowded again. And with the crowds comes the need to enforce the rules. Also, the city’s Americans with Disabilities Act coordinator received complaints from citizens regarding a proliferation of sandwich board signs on sidewalks, a news release said. The ADA requires all public sidewalks be accessible and usable by people with disabilities.

“Given the narrow nature of our sidewalks and the large number of people using them, obstacles such as sandwich boards and pedestal signs can present a serious impediment, and sometimes a real danger, for citizens,” city of Charleston Director of Livability and Tourism Dan Riccio said in the release. “We will continue working with merchants throughout this week-long grace period to ensure we’re able to avoid any unnecessary citations.”

City of Charleston enforcement officers will begin citing businesses using sandwich boards and pedestal signs along sidewalks rights-of-way on Monday, May 16, according to the release. Until then, officers will issue warnings in place of citations.

Generally, signage and other items should not block public rights-of-way, but there are some circumstances where citizens and businesses can apply for a permit to do so, the release said. Examples include encroachment permits and the city’s Sidewalk Café program, which authorizes permitted food and beverage service on a public right-of-way directly adjacent to the establishment. More information on the Sidewalk Café program can be found online (pdf).

Reach Ross Norton at or 864-642-5229.

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