Richland Sheriff begins process to close “sexually oriented business”
Richland County authorities have ordered a Decker Boulevard sports bar and lounge to stop all sexually oriented activities after accusing the business of operating as a strip club, according to Sheriff Leon Lott.
Lott on Friday said a stop work order had been issued for Mi Casita Sports Bar and Lounge, 2205 Decker Blvd., Suite D. The order was issued after an investigation determined Mi Casita operates as a "sexually oriented business."
Lott said the business opens as a restaurant, "but when the doors close, the poles go up and they start stripping."
The sheriff's department said deputies have responded to 32 calls at the business since 2016, including a homicide.
"There have been fights, shots fired, even a murder," Lott said.
A man died after being run over by a car in October in the Mi Casita parking lot, and a woman was charged.
The department said videos and images from inside the club dating back to May 2016 show strippers plying their trade. Lott added that music from the club keeps neighbors up at night.
"This location has been a sore spot on the community," Lott said.
Should the owners reopen the club, they would face a penalty of $500 and/or 30 days in jail for each day it continues to operate. The zoning law bans sexually oriented businesses from opening within 1,000 feet of residences, churches or places where children congregate, including schools.
It is the second alleged illegal strip club targeted by Richland County officials. In December, a stop work order was posted on the Black Pearl club on Broad River Road two weeks after two men were shot to death there.
"When we shut the Black Pearl down, it sent a message that we weren't going to tolerate this in Richland County," Lott said.
Mi Casita means "my house" in Spanish. Signs on the storefront at a busy strip mall advertise the business as a Hispanic sports bar and grill. Police said while the owners are Hispanic, the clientele is mostly African-American.
A Richland County zoning official backed by sheriff's deputies delivered the stop work order Friday afternoon after a news conference at the sheriff's department. The business was not open and the owners were not present, but deputies said the owners' lawyers had been notified of the order.
Lott said officers repeatedly explained to the Mi Casita's managers, James Randolph and Yina Bell, why they were not licensed to operate as a strip club.
In December, the owner of Mi Casita, Dessi Morales, told The State newspaper the business was not a strip club.
“I don’t know (that) they can shut my business,” she said at the time. “For what?”
Randolph, a club manager, at the time told the newspaper that he would meet with the sheriff’s department to learn what he could do to avoid being shuttered.
"We need to find a medium (sic) ground to be where we’re in compliance,” Randolph said at the time.