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Columbia committee considers ways to grow small businesses

One idea is to no longer requiring businesses that are 7,500 square feet or less to have parking for customers

Becky Budds

COLUMBIA, S.C. — Columbia City Council's Economic and Community Development Committee is considering several ways to ease burdens on new business owners.

This as they look to revitalize communities from Main Street, North Main, to Two Notch Road and Five points.

The committee is considering no longer requiring businesses that are 7,500 square feet or less to have parking for customers and redoing the way on-street parking is currently done.

"Columbia has 3,000 people living in the city center. Greenville and Charleston have 9,000 people living in the city center," said city councilman Joe Taylor. "Frankly, we need to replace some of these empty parking lots with buildings."

The committee also proposed creating a grease trap rebate program that would lower the cost restaurants pay to remove waste. The city hopes this program will bring more restaurants to the area.

When Rhett Elliot opened The War Mouth six years ago, the Cotton town area in Columbia looked more like a ghost town.

“In those six and a half years it went from 0 foot traffic to people everywhere," said Elliot.

Elliot attributes the foot traffic to small businesses like Curiosity Coffee Bar, Gardener's Outpost, Indah Coffee, and more that have opened and transformed the area.

"It's definitely coming up which is exciting because every little bit that comes this way, helps," said Elliot. Elliot hopes the area continues to grow and said even the discussion of helping small business owners in Columbia is encouraging. "Any help you can get while you're putting that much of your skin in the game is certainly welcome," said Elliot.

Owner of Indah Coffee Nick Hauser tells News 19 he knows all too well how hard it is to open a business in Columbia.

“It felt excessively burdensome with the tax and some of the different requirements and that kind of thing," said Hauser. "If we could find ways to get out of the way of entrepreneurs and creative types, Columbia could be a city that could rival the best cities across the country."

Council is also working to cut commercial property taxes through their Tax Modernization Committee. That committee meets again Thursday. The committee's ideas are in the early planning stages as they will present to full city council in the coming weeks.

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