Pour House — the Five Points bar that closed in May after the then-owner was accused of choking into unconsciousness a University of South Carolina student — has been sold and is preparing to re-open under another name.
The business, to be called Five Points Roost, was purchased by Adam Ruonala, the marketing director for Palmetto State Armory, a Columbia-based gun retailer. He has also purchased another Five Points bar catering to college students, The Attic, which will be named Roof Top.
Ruonala told The State he plans to continue to market to college students. The new establishments will open at 9 p.m. or 10 p.m. and will stay open until the wee hours of the morning, he said.
“When Five Points thrives it is a more late-night venue,” he said. “There is only so much of a happy hour market, and I don’t want to go up against some of these (other) establishments” that target a wider range of customers with after-work specials.
But, he said, he plans to step up security and eliminate rock bottom pricing such as $1 liquor nights that result in large crowds of often drunk and unruly students and other younger adults.
“I’m going to put in whatever it needs to be the safest place in Five Points and what a bar can be like and still appeal to the college crowds,” he said. “Just because it’s a younger demographic doesn’t mean it’s a slum.”
However, Five Points Association executive director Amy Beth Franks said reopening the two establishments as late night college bars was not part of the vision for the funky, urban village near USC. The merchant’s association board was to take up the issue at a meeting on Wednesday.
“The desired movement is to get away from college bars and have more restaurants,” she said.
After the Pour House opened at 800 Harden St. in 2006, Columbia police made 646 arrests at that address through April of this year, according to police department records provided to The State by attorney Justin Bamberg. The charges range from under-aged drinking and drunkenness to aggravated assault.
Bamberg said he obtained the records through the state’s Freedom of Information Act.
The most public incident was the choking on St. Patrick’s Day this year of USC student Ryan Chisolm, 22.Former Pour House owner Dan Wells is accused of choking Chisolm and dropping him to the ground outside of the bar’s front door. Bamberg is representing Chisolm.
Chisolm’s jaw was broken in four places after he became unconscious and his head hit the sidewalk, according to Bamberg. Wells is charged with assault and battery.
The incident was caught on video.
Chisolm has sued Wells, the Pour House, building owner BB&A Entertainment and mortgage holder Wells Fargo bank. The lawsuit and battery charge are pending in Richland County.
The assault and battery charge carries a sentence of up to 10 years in jail. Chisholm is seeking a monetary judgment in civil court, Bamberg said.
Wells, who began operating the Pour House in 2014, voluntarily closed the bar after the incident.
Ruonala said that while he knows Wells, the former owner is no longer a part of the business.
“There is no association,” he said. “While I have no problem with him personally, . . . I have no association with him. This is a new staff.”
However, Ruonala said his general manager for the two bars, Stephen Bland, is a former Pour House manager; but he wasn’t in that position when Chisolm was injured.
Wells also said he had no involvement with the new businesses. “But I wish the best of luck to them.”
Bamberg said he does not oppose the bar’s re-opening under new ownership.
“What happened to Ryan did not just happen because of Dan Wells the individual,” he said. “There was a collective group of failures on the part of the business that led to this happening.”
Ruonala has applied for a state beer and liquor license for both locations. People have until Friday to file comments with the S.C. Department of Revenue about the Five Points Roost. Those wanting to weigh in on Roof Top have until Oct. 17.
Ruonala said he plans to open the new Roof Top under a temporary license on Friday, and Five Points Roost by Halloween.
He pledged professional and tight security.
“Violence will not be tolerated,” Ruonala said. “There’s a way you can handle issues by being stern but not being over the top.”
He added: “Columbia is a melting pot and we should embrace that as a community and as a business. We want to have a bar where all different walks of life can be comfortable.”