COLUMBIA, SC — The Library nightclub is closed indefinitely.
The owner of the controversial Five Points bar said on Saturday it was a personal decision.
Justin Kershner said he closed The Library nightclub on Harden Street to put everything behind him and said he did not feel like being harassed any longer.
Kershner said on Saturday he didn’t know if he would sell the business.
The decision to close came a day after he said paid his back taxes and was trying to figure out how to get back into the good graces of local law enforcement.
On Friday, Kershner said he borrowed $19,000 to settle an unpaid tax debt with the S.C. Department of Revenue. By making the payment, he kept his licenses to sell beer, wine and liquor. He did not say who gave him the loan.
Samantha Cheek, a spokeswoman for the S.C. Department of Revenue, said Friday afternoon that the business was in good standing.
The Library has become the focus of Richland County Sheriff Leon Lott’s effort to sweep out gangs who have staked a claim to Five Points. Lott said his gang investigators conducted surveillance on The Library and determined it had become the hangout of a nationally known criminal street gang that descended on Five Points after midnight. Lott has declined to name the gang.
The day after Lott called out The Library during a Wednesday news conference, the S.C. Department of Revenue served notice to Kershner that he needed to pay his back taxes or risk losing his alcohol permits.
Kershner said he had been paying the debt on an installment plan, but the Revenue Department suddenly changed the agreement he had made with revenue collectors.
The Library’s run-in with the sheriff is not the first time the bar has been cited by law enforcement as a trouble spot.
Former Columbia Police Chief Randy Scott complained about The Library in March 2013 after consecutive weekend shootings in Five Points. Scott and Kershner met to discuss the problems, and The Library’s doors remained opened.
But an October shooting that left an 18-year-old University of South Carolina freshman paralyzed renewed public anger over violence in Five Points. That led Lott to conduct an unannounced Nov. 2 operation in Five Points that included surveillance of The Library.
Kershner told reporters earlier this week that his bar was being singled out because it is the only Five Points establishment that caters to a mostly black clientele.
“We’re treating all the clubs the same,” interim Police Chief Ruben Santiago said Friday. “You’re stepping out of line, you’ve got to be held accountable. The message we’re sending is ‘We’re not going to tolerate it any more.’”
Lott has said the Five Points environment would change almost overnight if The Library closed.
Staff Writer Cassie Cope contributed. Reach Phillips at (803) 771-8307.