COLUMBIA, SC (WIS) - A Richland County Councilman said a strip club was masquerading as a sushi bar, and now, that business has been given a stop work order.
Councilman Seth Rose, who represents the area around the Pandora Bar and Lounge on Bush River Road, said he heard concerns about the restaurant from multiple constituents. He said he took those complaints of noise and possible crime to the county, so staff could investigate.
The restaurant was fined $1,000 Friday after continuing to operate the strip club, Rose said.
Rose said county investigators found "egregious" violations from what's stipulated on Pandora's business license.
"Staff went and investigated undercover, and, when asked, when staff went and said, 'Hey! Where's the sushi restaurant?' The reply that I was told that was given was, 'We're not a sushi restaurant. We're a strip club!'" Rose told WIS.
Councilman Rose said not only was Pandora not allowed to operate as a bar, but it was also prohibited from operating as a strip club.
A copy of the stop work order forwarded to WIS reads: "It has been determined by the Richland County Planning Department that
the activities at this location are in violation of the provisions of the Richland County Land Development Code (LDC)."
According to the document, under the stop work order, the use of the property for "the bar and other drinking establishment" is prohibited and asks the business to contact the Richland County Planning Department before it continues to use or occupy the property.
Rose said, because of zoning rules, sexually-oriented businesses have to be a certain distance from churches and schools. NewSpring Church has a campus almost directly across the street from Pandora.
"As the councilman for this area, if there is a club that opens that is not zoned to be there, I cannot allow them to operate in the face of the community," he said.
Rose said Pandora will be ticketed a thousand bucks each day it continues to operate as a strip club or bar.
No one from Pandora could be reached when WIS tried to contact them on the phone and at the business.
Rose said if the "illegal" bar and strip club continues to operate outside the purview of its business license, the county will take Pandora to court to ultimately "chain the doors."