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One year after the Faces Lounge shooting, ordinance successful in helping deputies shut down ‘nuisance’ clubs

Published: Jan. 1, 2020 at 8:21 PM EST
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COLUMBIA, S.C. (WIS) - In the early morning hours of New Year’s Day 2019, five people were injured after Richland County deputies say someone started shooting inside Faces Lounge on Decker Boulevard.

The shooting would prompt county council members to enact an emergency ordinance a few months later, giving the sheriff’s department the power to shut down businesses it considered a nuisance or dangerous to the community. In doing so, six nightclubs deemed problematic by deputies closed in 2019, some did so willingly while others were forced to shut down.

“It’s a business they’re making blood money from,” Sheriff Leon Lott said in an interview shortly after the Faces Lounge shooting. “People are dying and they’re making money from people’s blood pouring into the streets.”

The emergency ordinance was made permeant when it expired after a 61-day trial period. That time was given to county council members to see not only if the ordinance would be implemented, but how, according to county councilman Jim Manning.

“It can be very clear to the citizens, to county council that if there was any misuse of this, we would see it pretty evidently and quickly,” Manning said. “Because once it goes to an appeal, if there are successful appeals, that means law enforcement is overstepping the legitimacy of the ordinance.”

Manning said the council has seen no evidence of that and he is satisfied with the way the ordinance has been implemented by the sheriff’s department. Part of his district includes Decker Boulevard, which was previously home to Faces Lounge and Mi Casita, two businesses considered a nuisance by deputies. Both businesses decided to relinquish their liquor licenses after the ordinance was passed and close their doors.

Sheriff Lott paid a personal visit to Club LaRoice in north Columbia in July, placing a padlock and chain on the front doors of the club. Before the ordinance was put in place, deputies went through a series of tickets, citations and stop-work orders in an attempt to shut down businesses. With the help of the ordinance, much of that red tape has been eliminated.

“The businesses got to see that we were serious and that we were going to stay serious about this matter,” Manning said. “As a result, the businesses up and down Decker Boulevard are doing business per the law, per the local ordinance.”

Mi Casita and Kandyland Club have removed their signage and no longer occupy their respective buildings. Faces Lounge has a “for rent” sign in the front window. Bliss Columbia and Tryst also closed in 2019 under the ordinance, according to the department.

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