Richland County officials have closed, at least temporarily, what County Council member Seth Rose described as an “illegal strip club” and bar named Pandora that he said was licensed to open as a sushi bar.
Pandora’s was operating on Bush River Road next to Interstate 26, several miles west of downtown Columbia.
Rose told The State newspaper he asked county zoning officials to inspect the business after getting numerous complaints about night noise from neighbors who live in residential communities adjoining the site.
“A county investigation also found that they were not only operating as a bar but also as an illegal strip club,” Rose said. “But when they applied for a business license, they said they were only going to be a sushi restaurant.”
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That investigation involved a county inspector visiting the club to check on the allegations, Rose said.
Rose said Pandora’s application for a business license asserted the business was opening up a sushi restaurant.
On Facebook, a page for a business listing that address advertises itself as Pandora’s Bar and Lounge. It features numerous photos of scantily clad women, some in suggestive poses.
Pandora club operators could not be reached for comment. No one answered a reporter’s knock on the club door late Thursday afternoon.
A hand-lettered sign on the door said in part, “Closed tonight due to plumbing. Sorry for any inconvenience.”
The State obtained a copy of the order Rose said county officials posted on Pandora’s door earlier in this week. The sign said, “Do not remove this notice.”
No such sign was visible Thursday afternoon.
The Richland County “Stop Work” sign gave Pandora’s address and said the Planning Department had determined that “the activities at this location are in violation of the provisions of the Richland County Land Development Code” – specifically, that the bar is located within 600 feet of a place of worship.
The sign said if Pandora operators want to continuing using the property, they must contact the county.
“If they were just a bar, they would be a violation. But they took it a step further and became a strip club,” Rose said.
Rose, who attended a recent neighborhood meeting, said neighbors were concerned about noise coming from the club in late hours.
“It’s not just noise – it’s gunfire, too,” Rose said, referring to an early morning July 15 incident when gunfire erupted outside Pandora’s, causing patrons and employees to flee outside. A vehicle in the club’s parking lot was struck by a stray bullet and the windshield was damaged, the sheriff’s department said.
A Richland County sheriff's spokesman said Thursday night the department continues to investigate the shooting. While no arrests have so far been made, investigators determined the shooting was gang-related. Other similar violent incidents have taken place at the club, the spokesman said.
Two years ago, Rose helped lead a successful drive to close a strip club called Heartbreakers on a property adjoining Pandora’s. The closing of that club was a “major win for the community” because such clubs can lower property values, Rose said.
Rose said no one had any inkling another strip club would open after Heartbreakers closed.
“This one seemed to pop up secretly, and I am not going to tolerate this in District 5,” Rose said. That district stretches from downtown Columbia and includes the neighborhoods of Shandon and Rosewood out to this section of Bush River Road.
Fines for illegally located bars and strip clubs can run up to $1,000 a day, Rose said.