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SCRLA fighting ruling that could close thousands of bars

Friday, May 11, 2018   (0 Comments)
Posted by: Katie Montgomery
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The South Carolina Restaurant and Lodging Association is fiercely fighting a portion of a recent administrative law judge’s ruling that could potentially close more than a thousand restaurants and bars across the state.
The judge ruled to deny the liquor license to an establishment in Columbia for failing to have food sales as its primary source of revenue, which is required under state law to get a liquor license foron-premise consumption.
Neither state law nor the legal precedents set a definite percentage of food to liquor.
“We are very concerned about the potentially state-wide precedent-setting aspect of the judge’s ruling,” said John Durst, SCRLA President and CEO.
The SCLRA Board of Directors is urging the Department of Revenue to halt any increased enforcement.
The board "respectfully requests that appropriate enforcement officials delay enforcing that ruling until other avenues of appeal — such as legal, legislative and/or regulatory relief — especially focusing on a clarification of what exactly constitutes ‘normal mealtimes’ and the word ‘primarily’, are exhausted.”
At the request of the SCRLA, Doctor Robin DiPietro and her team with the USC College of Hospitality, Retail and Sport Management, conducted a study that found the judge’s interpretation could have a rippling affect, costing the state more than 7,000 jobs and $10 million a year in tax revenue.
The study "Need for Statutory Clarity"found 1,022 establishments that identified themselves on the 2012 U.S. Census as "bars" or "nightclubs." The researchers assumed, DiPietro said, that the establishments self-identified themselves as bars because they sell less food than alcohol.
Joe McCullough, attorney for the SCRLA’s Columbia Restaurant Chapter, called the judge’s ruling, if upheld on appeal and enforced as potentially being "apocalyptic."
"The restaurants are going to have to take a real hard look in the mirror," he said in an interview with The State Newspaper, adding that commercial districts like Myrtle Beach's Ocean Boulevard, Charleston's King Street and Greenville's Main Street could be filled with empty storefronts if the ruling stands.

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