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Rooftop becomes first Five Points bar to renew liquor license

Updated: Jun. 15, 2021 at 7:56 PM EDT
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COLUMBIA, S.C. (WIS) - Residents of the Five Points community, represented by Senator Dick Harpootlian, have protested bars in the area for the past few years. Residents say the bars are open to serve underaged customers and are only interested in making quick cash.

Because of protests, many bars in the district have lost their liquor license, prompting closures. Five Points currently has more than 30 vacant storefronts.

Rooftop is the first Five Points bar to be able to renew its liquor license. To renew, it agreed to follow strict regulations to combat the underage drinking issue.

“Rooftop though has stepped up and taken steps and worked out a compromise with the DOR to do things to ensure that it’s not another bar for underage kids overindulging and then ending up rampaging through this neighborhood,” says Harpootlian.

Regulations include selling drinks for more than $3, opening earlier in the day, installing more cameras at the entrance and at bars, encouraging police walkthroughs and random ID checks, and use of forensic ID scanners.

The new scanners, Harpootlian says, will take a picture of the license and the person presenting it, and it will keep that information on record in a database.

The enforcements are equally as strict. After the first offense, the liquor license is suspended for 45 days. After the second offense, the license will be revoked.

Rooftop’s attorney says that, although the new regulations are strict, Rooftop already had good business practices.

“My client, Rooftop, has worked very hard to do everything that they could to combat underage drinking. This agreement includes processes and procedures that they’ve been using for some time. I think they were very glad that the authorities and the opponents recognized what they were doing, and both the practical and business benefits to that,” says Attorney Mike Montgomery.

Montgomery adds that Rooftop was able to come to an agreement with both Harpootlian and the Department of Revenue because it has a clean record from SLED since the bar opened its doors in 2018.

Steve Cook, President of the Five Points Association, has owned a business in Five Points for the past 15 years. Cook has seen the protests against the bars, even in his past two years as president.

“The tide has finally turned on a lot of this protest stuff where I think people are just kind of sick of the neighborhood itself being beaten down. There always have been college bars in Five Points, there always will be college bars in Five Points,” Cook says. “That being said, we want bars to operate under all the laws the same way we want all the businesses to operate. So, I’m hopeful, even though this has been messy and probably not the best process, I’m hopeful we’re coming to an end of a lot of this stuff.”

Harpootlian hopes that other businesses will see what Rooftop has done and form similar agreements. He says that 16 officers patrol Five Points Thursday through Saturday nights, while only two patrols the Vista.

He hopes the crime rate will decrease as Five Points begins attracting crowds 21 and older.

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