Experience the drunken party scene in Columbia’s Five Points
The University of South Carolina is challenging the liquor license renewals of three Five Points bars, saying they over serve their customers, mostly USC students, and create other concerns.
The three bars are The Saloon at 812 Harden St., Cover 3 at 711 Harden St. and The Horseshoe at 724 Harden St.
School officials said they also oppose a new license for a group wanting to open an establishment at the old Pour House location at 800 Harden St. — where a license for The Five Points Roost was denied earlier this year.
School officials said they decided to oppose the license or license renewals of the bars after:
▪ Reviewing advertisements of drink specials on social media that encourage heavy drinking.
▪ Studying the number of students who were transported to the hospital for overconsumption and where they had their last drink.
▪ Determining if the bars sold food, and not token meals such as a frozen corn dog.
“We don’t object to bars who are responsible about serving students of legal drinking age,” USC spokesman Jeff Stensland said. “What we’re objecting to are establishments that lure students — often underage students — with the promise of cheap liquor and encourage them to drink to excess.
“Ultimately, each student is responsible for his or her own well-being, but bars that glorify dangerous behavior also should be held to account,” he said. “There are additional bars we have serious concerns about and will certainly explore filing future protests. “
Anna Edwards, USC’s associate vice president for student life, said that the university is closely monitoring social media sites to determine which bars are encouraging overindulgence through cheap liquor specials.
She cited one that advertised a “power hour,” where customers can drink as much as they want in one hour for $10.
“We see a lot of activity around drink specials during high risk times of the week,” she said, especially Thursdays, weekends and, oddly, Tuesday nights.
She added that there was a lot of “activity” during the run-up to Hurricane Florence two weeks ago, when classed were canceled.
The bar owners could not be reached for comment.
USC joins a group of about one dozen neighbors who oppose the high concentration of late-night college bars in the district. The neighbors are opposing the liquor license renewals of five bars, the three opposed by USC and also Lucky’s and Group Therapy.
An S.C. administrative law judge in April denied a license for the Five Points Roost because of a high number of violations at the business through the years, among other issues.
Earlier this month, the same judge, Deborah Durden, approved a license for the Rooftop Bar at 638 Harden St., owned by the same partnership as The Roost.
But the Rooftop Bar license was granted with heavy conditions, such as requiring the establishment to open at 11:30 a.m., to serve lunch, not advertising alcoholic drinks and not serve drinks that cost less than $3.
Columbia attorney and Wales Garden resident Dick Harpootlian, who represents the neighbors, has said other bars will be challenged as their license renewals come up.
The neighbors claim many Five Points bars encourage rowdy, drunken behavior, underage drinking and general mayhem that spreads into adjoining neighborhoods in the wee hours on weekends..
Edwards wouldn’t name the other bars the university might challenge. But she said that any challenges would be based on the criteria of advertised drink specials, food service and students being transported to the hospital after drinking there.
She noted that Group Therapy and Lucky’s, which also cater to college students and whose licenses are being challenged by neighbors, did not meet the criteria for a USC challenge. Group Therapy is owned by former USC quarterback Steve Taneyhill.
“This is not an attack on a certain establishment,” she said.
Central to the neighbors’ argument against the liquor licenses is a tenet in state law that says only establishments that “primarily and substantially engage in the preparation and service of meals” are eligible for a liquor license. Many Five Points bars, particularly late-night college bars, do not serve much food.
The decision on whether Five Points college bars can have licenses without selling a significant amount of food has ramifications statewide. Issues decided in these cases, including what defines a bar and the required ratio of food-to-alcohol sales, could affect more than 1,000 bars across the Palmetto State.
On another front, Harpootlian is also representing a longtime Five Points jeweler who is challenging four late-night college bars on the 600 block of Harden Street, saying they are nuisances and violate a city ordinance requiring bars to be 400 feet apart.
In addition to challenging individual licenses, the neighbors pressured Columbia City Council to make it more difficult to get a late-night permit, resulting in fewer bars now staying open past 2 a.m.