October 30, 2014

Florence County no longer under blue laws

Florence County will no longer be covered by South Carolina’s blue laws after reaching a tax revenue benchmark in June.

State law does not allow retail stores to open before 1:30 pm on Sunday. However, there is a loophole: if a county’s accomodations tax revenue (the tax money collected from hotels) goes above $900,000 per fiscal year.

Florence County slipped above that mark for the first time in June. That means they become the seventh county in the state to emerge from the section of state code known as “blue laws.” Other counties above that threshold include Horry, Charleston, Beaufort, Richland, Greenville, and Georgetown.

“Blue Laws,” also called “Sunday Codes,” are an old part of state law that deals with businesses operating on Sundays. There is a loophole in the state’s tax codes that allows counties that collect more than $900,000 in hospitality taxes to get around the codes. The logic is that the area has enough tourists to take some of the tax burden away from property owners.

“We’ve known about that $900,000 number,” said Ron Glancy, Vice President of Operations for the Raines Development Group, which operates three hotels in Florence County, “As a matter of fact, the Florence area (came) pretty close to it three years ago.”

The exception is permanent. Even if its revenue drops again, Florence will not be covered by the codes.

Glancy said visitors to Raines’s hotels were often surprised to learn about the laws, “Most other states don’t have these blue laws. So, when they come here on a Sunday morning and they want to go pick up something up from Target, we have to explain to them, ‘Target’s not going to be open until 1:30.’ They’re kind of dumbfounded.”

Alcohol is not covered by the Sunday Codes, so nothing would change with regard to liquor sales.