Zaxby’s is walking away from Five Points.
Franchisees Jim and Britt Poston of Florence told The State they now are looking for another location in the Columbia area after their plans to locate one of the fast food chicken restaurants in the old Harper’s building were met with neighborhood protests and a lawsuit..
“We’re disappointed, but at this time, it’s best to shift gears,” said Britt Poston, who along with his brother, Jim, own 19 Zaxby’s location in Columbia, Florence and Orangeburg.
Poston declined further comment except to say that they would have been “good corporate neighbors” in the urban village near the University of South Carolina.
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Building owner John Scarborough said the Postons “just didn’t want to come somewhere where they weren’t welcome.”
The Columbia Board of Zoning Appeals in December voted 4-2 to allow Zaxby’s to locate a restaurant there with a drive-thru window. But the drive-thru was opposed by the Five Points Association and some neighborhood groups as marring the character of the lower part of the village.
Five Points property owner and Five Points Association board member Richard Burts filed suit to challenge the board of zoning appeals’ decision. Burts’ attorney, Dick Harpootlian, who lives in nearby Wales Garden, called the Poston’s decision a victory.
“I want to thank Zaxby’s for reconsidering their position and honoring the wishes of the neighborhood,” said Harpootlian, one of Columbia’s leading attorneys, a former prosecutor and former chairman of the state Democratic Party.
Scarborough said he will continue to look for tenants for the building, and did not rule out entertaining offers from those wanting to establish a bar marketed to college students.
“We’re right back to where we were,” he said. “And everything is on the table.”
In addition to more fast-food restaurants, neighbors and the association also have opposed any new bars in the shopping and entertainment district.
“We’re going to be able to participate in finding an alternative for him,” Harpootlian said. “And for those that would development property (in Five Points), this shows that we are willing to very seriously litigate issues that affect the neighborhood.”
The Postons also own the Zaxby’s on Knox Abbott Drive in Cayce and on Beltline Boulevard near Richland Mall. They have stores in Myrtle Beach, Florence, Sumter and Orangeburg as well as Columbia.
Scarborough has said that after aggressively marketing to restaurant groups from around the region, the choice came down to Zaxby’s, a bank or a college bar.
“They were the only ones who stepped up to the plate,” he said.