Restaurant Opening Delayed

RIDGEWAY – The opening date for a proposed restaurant for downtown Ridgeway has been pushed back, as owners hard at work on upgrades and improvements to the building have run into a roadblock with the Department of Health and Environmental Control (DHEC).

At the Aug. 8 Town Council meeting, restaurant owner Vesha Sanders presented Council with a letter of adjustment in her agreement with the Town, which owns the Old Town Hall building where the restaurant is located, requesting three additional months of deferred rent payments. Sanders and her husband, Charles Kelly, who is assisting Sanders in the retooling of the building, said the hang-up has been with the overhead ventilation hood in the kitchen. Kelly said DHEC has been having difficulty acquiring all the necessary specs on the hood, even after several on-site visits during which a DHEC inspector examined the hood in person.

“(DHEC) asked for the serial number (on the hood), and we gave them the data and he still said he needed more information,” Kelly said. “We give them all the data (on the hood) and he still said he needs more.”

Kelly said they have had to drop the ceilings 3 feet, add additional lights and bring the air conditioning vents down with the ceiling. Kelly also said they have repaired rotten walls inside the restaurant and have had to re-hang several doors.

Kelly also said that DHEC has expanded its checklist of items Sanders and Kelly need to address with each visit. Every time Sanders and Kelly complete the DHEC checklist, Kelly said, DHEC arrives for a follow-up inspection and adds additional items for the couple to address. Kelly said the he and Sanders have also found out from DHEC that the building, since the former restaurant was closed for more than 10 days, will have to meet 2013 codes and will not be grandfathered in under the old building codes.

“We can’t argue with him,” Kelly said. “All we can do is meet what he asks us to do. Three restaurants have been in that place and used it and all of them making money, and we come here now and we can’t use it and we can’t make any money.”

Councilman Doug Porter suggested that Sanders and Kelly ask DHEC to send out a supervisor on the next inspection.

“He (the DHEC inspector) should be able to come down there one time and tell you what you need to do,” Porter said. “You don’t keep coming back and adding things.”

But Kelly said he didn’t want to invoke the ire of DHEC. A supervisor will likely stand by his inspector, Kelly said, and Kelly is looking for the “path of least resistance” in getting the business open. Sanders said the restaurant was ready to open as soon as DHEC gave the OK.

Mayor Charlene Herring said Council would have to vote on the request for the three-month deferment at a future meeting when all Council members were in attendance. Councilman Russ Brown was absent from the Aug. 8 meeting.