COLUMBIA, SC (WIS) - Residents, neighborhood associations, law enforcement, and a state representative are concerned about a proposed gentleman's club at a location on Fernandina Road.
Parties have already sent letters of opposition to the state Department of Revenue. The state agency that regulates businesses received a license application from WKSC, LLC, to sell beer, wine and/or liquor on the premises of 4209 Fernandina Road.
Permit signs seeking public input have also been placed at the location.
Many, including Lexington County District 85 State Rep. Chip Huggins, say they will do what they can to prevent any sort of "gentlemen's club" from operating at the site. Huggins was one of many who sent DOR a letter against the proposal. He has also received dozens of phone calls on the issue from constituents.
"A club of this type is oftentimes disruptive and attracts patrons who are not affiliated with or concerned about the surrounding area and the types of activities at these establishments can lead to criminal activity and violence," Huggins wrote.
"Surrounding this proposed location are daycare centers, schools, churches, medical offices and well-established positive businesses serving the public."
The nearby Quail Valley Civic Association has come out against the proposal in a letter of their own, saying "such establishments often present a threat to public safety."
Residents we interviewed also offered their opinion on what could become of the property.
"We're not happy about that," neighbor Gerald Jowers said. "Those types of clubs have no really socially acceptable results coming from them. They're sources of problems in the neighborhood."
"It's been quiet and peaceful and just a wonderful place to live," neighbor Jim Postell said. "And I don't think a gentlemen's club will help in any way. "
"I think it would be detrimental to our community to have this type of business there" neighbor Ada Raybon said.
Church leaders, such as Bishop C. L. Hardy of nearby New Covenant Assembly Christian Ministry, have also expressed concerns due site's close proximity to churches in the area.
After hearing the community concerns, we requested documents related to the property. Upon request, a "zoning and landscape application/site plan review" for Fernandina site was provided to us by county public information officer Harrison Cahill.
Cahill said to the county's knowledge to date, the application provided is the only one submitted to date for the Fernadina site.
The property sits between Lexington and Richland counties, but Cahill said any permits and plans for the building containing the business portion of the land will be approved through Lexington.
The count application lists a "KBE Holdings, LLC; DBA Savannah's Steakhouse and Gentleman's Club."
We went straight to the owner of the Fernandina property, West Columbia attorney Stanley Myers. He did not wish to elaborate on the nature of the business, agreements, or transactions and did not confirm a "gentleman's club" at the location.
Myers noted he had been approached by 3 or 4 entities about doing business on the location, but "nothing has been set in stone."
He did assure us that a legal business will be allowed to operate on his land. Myers stated he does not condone any illegal actions and has the right as the landlord to terminate any sort of agreement with a business.
While Myers said nothing is set in stone, the name, "Quantum Business Group, LLC" and email address using Myers' first name are listed under the property owner's section on the application submitted to Lexington County's Community Development Department. The phone number included on the application matches the telephone number of Myers' place of employment. Myers says "Quantum Business Group LLC" is an organization he is a port of that includes owners of the land.
In a separate call, we asked Myers specifically about WKSC, LLC, but he did not return our call. He later called us back to reiterate that no agreements have been made between himself and the applicant.
The person listed as the sole applicant on the application is Jimmie Ellis, who we contacted. Ellis told us he was familiar with the property, but asked us to reach back out to him in an hour and he would be happy to answer any questions. We called him twice more, but he did not respond to a voice mails.
Myers however, did say he believes Ellis has taken all the steps to make it right, when it comes to operating the business in a legal fashion.
Cahill, meanwhile, said if the county approves the documented plans on Fernandina, the permit will be a zoning permit for a sexually-oriented business. Before that approval occurs, the Cahill said that business plans must meet the county's ordinance requirements.
Cahill said there will not be a step where the permit approval decision will be brought before the public or a council due to the nature of the permit, adding any decision will be an internal one.
If the current application for the business on Fernandina is denied, Cahill said the entities can appeal.
The part of the property that Lexington County is in charge of, according to the Cahill, is the building and the principal parking. He said zoning permits on the Richland County/DOT side encompass access to the property from Fernandina, an overflow parking, and storm water calculations. Due to the nature of the county and property lines, Cahill said both counties are in close communication during this permitting process.
So what if Richland denies any of the applications?
"The business would be able to operate if the Zoning staff approves their application and plans in accordance with the County's ordinance, regardless of the approval of plans from Richland County/DOT/DOR," Cahill said.
Cahill said they are still reviewing additional, more detailed plans for the property.
The Lexington County Sheriff's Department, through spokesman Capt. Adam Myrick, has also weighed in.
"Several businesses and community groups have expressed concerns to us after hearing talk in the community of an adult-themed business planned for the Piney Grove Road area. We share many of those same concerns when it comes to adult-themed businesses. In these situations, we always work to make sure people are informed about what's being discussed and what the adult-themed business owners are planning. We do this as part of our commitment to keep citizens engaged and safe," Myrick said.
As for the Piney Grove Road location, we'll continue to share information about the licensing process and other administrative steps going forward with anyone who expresses concerns about the proposed business and its location."
Richland County Sheriff Leon Lott is also concerned.
"It's a fact that these locations attract crime that negatively impacts the surrounding community," Lott said. "I would hope that Lexington and Richland County officials work together to prevent the new strip club from opening. I have heard from numerous citizens in the area who are against the club. I hope their voice is heard."