Trouble spot

Landlord says he wants to evict Richland County strip club for unpaid rent

nophillips@thestate.comJanuary 30, 2013 

— The owners of Crush Gentleman’s Club have not paid rent in nearly a year, and now the landlord wants to evict the embattled strip club.

The property at 3722 River Drive is owned by Jerry Britt, a Columbia businessman who bought the building and land in 1999. The owner also does not want to risk losing his property because of the tenant’s actions, said Kenneth Goodwin, Britt’s business administrator.

“We want to shut it down, too,” Goodwin said. “We don’t support the tenants. We’ve had problems with them, too. They refuse to abide by the law.”

Crush has found itself on the wrong side of Richland County Sheriff Leon Lott and 5th Circuit Solicitor Dan Johnson after both elected officials said they received repeated complaints from the public about the club. Sheriff’s deputies have responded to 142 calls at the club since January 2010, including two weekend shootings earlier this month. Those shootings appear to be the last straw for the club; the sheriff’s department has raided it twice since Jan. 16.

The club is operating without a sexually oriented business permit from Richland County and without a liquor license from the S.C. Department of Revenue. During the Jan. 16 raid, deputies confiscated video poker machines, cash and liquor and cited the club’s management for not having the proper licenses. A dancer was cited for possession of marijuana.

Early Saturday morning, deputies raided the club for a second time. Once again, the club’s manager and three dancers were charged for not having county-issued sexually oriented business licenses. The strippers are independent contractors and therefore must have their own sexually oriented business permits, deputies said.

Britt and Crush’s owner, Stan Hudgens, are negotiating for the business to leave the property, Goodwin said. Goodwin said he recently has been hired to manage Britt’s business affairs because Britt is having serious health problems.

Robert Rikard, Hudgens attorney, said several settlement offers were on the table. But he said he could not comment on them or the dispute over the rent payments.

Lott said he and Johnson are forging ahead in building a case to have Crush permanently closed no matter what deal is agreed upon by the landlord and club owners. He wants to prevent Crush’s owners and management from reopening under another name or picking another location in Richland County.

“We don’t want them to come back,” Lott said.

The River Drive property has been a strip club as long as many people can remember although it has operated under various names over the years. And it has courted trouble under those different names.

In 2006, Columbia attorney Dewain Herring fired a shot through the club’s front door, killing a bouncer who had thrown him out earlier for getting naked in a private dance room. Herring was sentenced to 30 years in prison.

However, the property’s owner said he could not promise that another strip club would not open in the same spot.

“That place has been a strip club for I don’t know how many years,” Goodwin said. “It’s pretty much been known for that.

“We’ll do our best to put a more reputable business in there.”

Reach Phillips at (803) 771-8307.

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