Five Points’ controversial Twist bar (aka The Library) cleared to open — again

05/05/2014 10:28 PM

05/05/2014 10:32 PM

Club Twist in Five Points, one of the entertainment district’s most controversial bars, has been cleared to reopen, a city official said Monday.

The bar has fixed all the city code violations found during a surprise inspection in late March, city Fire Chief Aubrey Jenkins said Monday. The violations prompted the city to close Club Twist, in the 800 block of Harden Street, and four other bars.

The city had found a locked and obstructed exit in the crowded Club Twist.

Officials take such violations seriously because in the event of a fire, people can be crushed to death and die of smoke inhalation because they can’t escape from the crowded, enclosed area.

Club Twist was apparently open last weekend, but owner-operator Justin Kershner declined comment in a brief phone interview Monday.

“On the advice of my attorney, I have no comment for you or anybody else,” Kershner said.

Asked who his attorney was, Kershner declined to answer.

Jenkins said the club had paid a fine but had no immediate information on how much the club paid.

Over the past seven months, Club Twist has been the center of an on-again, off-again saga of media attention.

In November, Richland County Sheriff Leon Lott targeted Club Twist, then known as The Library, for an undercover operation because, Lott said publicly, it was a hangout for members of a national gang. Lott said the Five Points environment, which had a rash of highly publicized nighttime shootings, would change almost overnight if The Library were closed.

Kershner told a reporter at the time he was being targeted because he was “the only person in Five Points that allows young black kids to come in, whether it’s USC, Benedict or Allen.”

In November, news accounts also focused on an unpaid $19,000 debt the Library owed the S.C. Department of Revenue. Kershner later told a reporter with The State he borrowed $19,000 and paid his back taxes, making it possible for him to keep his licenses to sell beer, wine and liquor.

Later in November, Kershner announced he was closing The Library indefinitely.

But then Kershner opened up again, only to be shut down by Columbia officials for operating without a proper permit.

Later in November, the bar operated under the name “Harden Bar Group,” according to a city of Columbia spokesman.

The club then changed its name to Club Twist, which was the name it was operating under when city officials closed it in March for the fire code violation.

But like the phoenix in ancient Greek mythology, Club Twist is now back in action.

“Let’s get Twisted,” read a big sign in Club Twist’s window Monday afternoon.

“Come check out our drink specials.”

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