Five Points bar Group Therapy wins court battle to renew liquor license

Five Points bar Group Therapy wins court battle to renew liquor license
Several people and groups -- including CPD and UofSC -- objected against Group Therapy renewing its liquor license. (Source: WIS)

COLUMBIA, S.C. (WIS) - A well-known bar in the busy Five Points neighborhood of Columbia was granted a new liquor license after a court battle.

The bar in question is Group Therapy, which is owned by Steve Taneyhill.

Several people and groups -- including the Columbia Police Department and the University of South Carolina -- objected against Group Therapy renewing its liquor license.

But the judge sided with the bar in her final ruling April 29.

Objections against the bar included general grievances about the late-night crowds of mostly young people in Five Points and surrounding neighborhoods and the number of police calls to the bar.

CPD said it responded to a high volume of calls “related to alcohol offenses specific to Group Therapy from July 2018 through July 2019."

However, the judge noted CPD granted the bar a special late-night beer and wine license in July 2019, saying the department found that, looking at the previous year’s data, “compared to other establishments in the area, Group Therapy did not have a high call volume or number of incidents.”

Those special late-night licenses were only awarded to four bars, court documents say.

The judge cited the contradiction between CPD saying Group Therapy had a high volume of calls, but then granting it that special beer and wine license based on it not having a high volume of calls during the same time period.

UofSC decided to join those against the bar getting a new liquor license saying Five Points contributes to underage drinking and behavior problems among college students. Its complaint was not specific to Group Therapy, though, the judge decided.

She said Group Therapy did not market itself to underage people.

Court documents also noted a particular alleged violation of the bar’s liquor license.

It says a Special Agent of SLED’s Alcohol Enforcement Unit visited the bar in Sept. 2019 and found four people who were not employed by the bar in an ‘Employees Only’ room that smelled of marijuana. One person was cited for marijuana possession during that incident.

SLED also cited Group Therapy for “permitting a criminal act on the premises.”

However, this possible violation -- that could lead to the bar have its license suspended or revoked -- is still going through due process. The judge said she would not have that weigh on her decision and would let that work itself out in separate court proceedings.

The decision noted positive things the owner of Group Therapy has had a part in, including an initiative to help bar patrons in Five Points get home safely, his role on the neighborhood’s board and his actions to raise money for the Special Olympics.

“From testimony at the hearing, it is evident that Group Therapy has maintained a reputation for peace and good order in the community which can be attributed directly to (Steve) Taneyhill’s positive relationship with law enforcement and his willingness to take steps designed to address and mitigate problems at their request,” the judge’s decision reads.

While the judge granted Group Therapy its liquor license, there are two conditions the bar must meet:

  1. "Within ninety days of the date of this Order, Petitioner must secure two additional Intellicheck Age ID® scanners to verify the identification cards of anyone entering the establishment. The utilization of all three scanners should prevent underage patrons from entering the establishment and should also help to alleviate the back-up in the line of patrons waiting to enter the premises.
  2. Within forty-five days of the date of this Order, Petitioner must designate a manager(s) who will be responsible for the operation of the establishment according to best practices when he is not present. To enhance communication with law enforcement and the public, the acting manager must be easily identifiable by all employees during any particular shift."

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