Bar crackdown leaves vacancies around Five Points, business owners say they need help from city

Bar crackdown leaves vacancies around Five Points, business owners say they need help from city

COLUMBIA, S.C. (WIS) - The Five Points Association said the neighborhood is in trouble because prime real estate in the area is sitting vacant after bars along Harden street were shut down.

On Thursday, the association released a 10-point plan that largely relies on the City of Columbia’s help. The business owners are asking the city to streamline the permitting process, expand sidewalks, waive water fees, and increase parking availability among other requests. They are also calling on Columbia colleges and universities like the University of South Carolina to allow students to hold parties on campus, so they stay on university property on Friday and Saturday nights.

This plan comes two months after the City of Columbia announced a Commercial Corridor Redevelopment Plan. But while many of the city’s goals match the Five Point Association’s plan, the association said they don’t want an overarching plan. They want a plan specific to the needs of their neighborhood.

However, the empty buildings are in part because of the efforts of State Senator Dick Harpootlian, who stood side-by-side with the association Thursday and his efforts to close bars violating the law. The law he is enforcing is from a 1979 state Supreme Court ruling that removed the liquor license for a bowling alley that wasn’t making 10% of its revenue from food.

These shutdown bars like Roost, Horseshoe, and Saloon were staples to some University of South Carolina students’ social lives, according to Junior Tilly Sullivan.

“It kind of became like a tradition for some of us to go out to certain bars on certain days and for those to be shut down puts a damper on what we used to do when we were together,” she said.

Restaurant owner and Five Points Association President Steve Cook said shutting down the bars isn’t the goal. He said he wants to encourage businesses to be part of the community rather than taking up prime real estate to just be open three nights a week.

“I think people have the perception that we want the bars gone…that is not the case. Five Points will have college bars forever. They are not going away. We don't want them to go away,” Cook said. “We want them to just be more a part of the fabric."

When the Five Points Association mentions the types of businesses they are hoping to fill these vacancies, they point to Home Team Barbecue. The Charleston-based business opened in Five Points in May and General Manager Mark Virtucio said it has been popular with students and older residents of the nearby neighborhoods.

Virtucio said the key to that success comes from being a business that brings Five Points back to how it was when he was a student at UofSC.

“There were a lot of cheap bars and stuff, but there was more of a community feel to it,” he said. “A lot more people were comfortable walking around with their families at four or five o’clock in the afternoon. You’d see a lot more just fun…I feel like that fun was still here, but it’s not as community feeling as it was. It feels now like a lot of underage kids trying to get away with things.”

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