Winnsboro restaurant suspension upheld

WINNSBORO – A Winnsboro restaurant that was shut down last month over concerns it was doubling as a nightclub will remain closed until further notice.

Meantime, a representative of Winnsboro Bar & Grill thinks the town’s decision to suspend her business license was overkill, saying her establishment is simply a restaurant that also serves drinks.

Beverly Williams, owner of the business, thinks the town should have issued a warning instead of shutting her restaurant down completely.

“If they had a problem, they could’ve come to us,” Williams said. “We’ve been locked out of our building. We haven’t been able to access any of our things. We’ve lost so much revenue.”

On April 16, Winnsboro Town Council voted unanimously to uphold the suspension of Winnsboro Bar & Grill’s business license.

Last Tuesday’s vote followed a public hearing in which Williams stated she never knowingly intended to violate any town rules.

“We’re just a family business. We offer a full restaurant-bar, but we’re not a bar. We’ve never advertised as a bar. We’re just a family restaurant that has full bar service, that’s just who we are,” Williams said. “We’ve never had any problems in the community. We’ve always served the community, I’ve served many of the people who are in here now.”

Town police, however, tell a different story.

Police Chief John Seibles said officers were alerted to the business after discovering social media and radio ads promoting a large party. He said the town lacks resources to police a large party.

“We have three officers on the street,” Seibles said. “We didn’t think that area of Winnsboro was conducive to this kind of bar, this kind of club.”

Investigator Michael Carroll with the town’s police department said fliers began circulating that advertised a “new nightlife party spot for Winnsboro.”

Carroll told council members that a relative of Williams subleased the property to James Randolph, the former owner of Kandyland, a Columbia area strip club the Richland County Sheriff’s Department recently shut down.

Richland County deputies responded to a shooting death at Kandyland in December 2018, according to media reports. It remains one of four unsolved murders reported last year.

“We can’t handle a nightlife party spot on Main Street,” Carroll said. “We just don’t have the officers or manpower to handle something Mr. James Randolph has done in the past.”

Williams countered that Randolph was advertising a private party. She said her business is not a nightclub.

“We’ve done everything according to what we thought was policy until we were otherwise informed it wasn’t,” she said. “We had no reason to think we were doing anything wrong.”

In a telephone interview with The Voice, Williams said when she originally obtained her business license in July, the business wasn’t serving alcohol.

Williams said the restaurant later obtained its liquor license from the S.C. Department of Revenue. She said the town’s decision to suspend her business license was over a mere technicality, one she’s happy to resolve.

“If we reapply for a business license, it means we’ll have to reapply for all of our other licenses as well,” Williams said. “We can’t just open right back up. We’re trying to figure out how we’ll proceed from here.”

According to a March 28 police report, Williams stated on her business license application that no alcohol would be sold, and that there wouldn’t be any coin-operated machines on the property.

Officers, however, observed bottles of liquor inside, as well as a coin operated pool table, the report said.

“Did you not think there was anything wrong if there was alcohol in the building, coin operated machines, and the business license said there wasn’t supposed to be anything like that in there?” Mayor Roger Gaddy asked during the hearing.

Williams said the business has communicated with town officials via social media about the coin-operated machines since February, but didn’t address the alcohol bottles.

“My main concern is the alcohol. Certainly it’s a clear violation of what your business is supposed to have,” Gaddy said. “I think the suspension is appropriate.”

Gaddy said he’s not opposed to a business that sells alcohol or has a coin-operated machine in its business. He said Winnsboro Bar & Grill is welcome to reapply for a new business license.

“This does not preclude you applying for other business licenses with the appropriate boxes checked,” Gaddy said. “Unfortunately in this situation, and I’m sorry you’re having to go through that, but clearly there’s a discrepancy.”