South Carolina              
Administrative Law Court
Edgar A. Brown building 1205 Pendleton St., Suite 224 Columbia, SC 29201 Voice: (803) 734-0550

SC Administrative Law Court Decisions

Stokes Package Store, LLC, d/b/a Crestview Package Store vs. SCDOR

South Carolina Department of Revenue

Stokes Package Store, LLC, d/b/a Crestview Package Store

South Carolina Department of Revenue

For the Petitioner:
Kenneth Roper, Esquire

For the Respondent:
Thomas A. McDermott, Esquire

For the Protestants:
Pro Se




This matter is before the Administrative Law Court (“ALC”) for a final order and decision following a contested case hearing pursuant to S.C. Code Ann. §§ 1-23-310 et seq. (2005), S.C. Code Ann. § 1-23-600(B) (Supp. 2007), and S.C. Code Ann. § 61-2-260 (Supp. 2007). The petitioner, Stokes Package Store, LLC, d/b/a Crestview Package Store (“Petitioner”), applied for a retail liquor license pursuant to S.C. Code Ann. §§ 61-6-100 et seq. (Supp. 2007) for the location at 1350 D Crestview Drive in Easley, South Carolina 29642. Adelle C. Barber, E. Wayne Barber, Donna B. Billingsley, Wilfredo E. and Carol H. Boerin, Debra J. Moyer, John Strickland, and Carole Walters (“Protestants”) filed written protests to the Petitioner’s application.[1] Respondent South Carolina Department of Revenue (“Department”) denied the application pursuant to S.C. Code Ann. § 61-6-185 due to the receipt of the Protestants’ valid public protests.

After notice to the parties and the Protestants, the court held a hearing on this matter on March 11, 2008. Both parties and the above-listed Protestants appeared at the hearing. Evidence was introduced and testimony presented. After carefully weighing all the evidence, the court finds that the Petitioner’s application for this location should be granted.


The sole issue raised in this contested case is the suitability of the location. See S.C. Code Ann. § 61-6-910(2) (Supp. 2007).


Having observed the witnesses and exhibits presented at the hearing and closely passed upon their credibility, and taking into consideration the burden of persuasion by the parties, the court makes the following Findings of Fact by a preponderance of the evidence.

Elizabeth Stokes is the sole member of the business seeking a retail liquor license. She is over the age of twenty-one. She is a legal resident of the State of South Carolina and has maintained her principal place of abode in South Carolina for at least thirty days prior to the date of application. The Department determined that the Petitioner met all the statutory requirements for a retail liquor store.

The Petitioner seeks a retail liquor license for Stokes Package Store, LLC, d/b/a Crestview Package Store, a liquor store. The proposed location has not been previously licensed. It is located in an end unit of a strip shopping center on the corner of Crestview Drive and Sheffield Road[2] in the city limits of Easley. The area in the vicinity of the proposed location consists of a mixture of residential neighborhoods and businesses. The site of the proposed location is zoned as a “Neighborhood Commercial District.”

In the shopping center with the proposed location is a convenience store with a beer and wine permit and several retail stores. Directly across the street from the proposed location is a medical office. The shopping center is immediately adjacent to a vacant lot, beyond which lies the Smithfield Golf Course and Country Club (“Country Club”). The Country Club has a swimming pool and tennis courts where children congregate in the summers. The Country Club also has a restaurant and bar that has an on-premises beer and wine permit and license to sell liquor by the drink.

While there are several residences nearby, none is located within 300 feet of the proposed location. There is no evidence that the area has problems with criminal activity or that the police protection in the area is inadequate. Parking at the proposed location is adequate.

Elizabeth Stokes provided testimony concerning the proposed location and the business generally. Stokes is a lifelong resident of Pickens County. She is a registered nurse and is currently a diabetes nurse educator with Palmetto Health Baptist. She is seeking to open this liquor store in preparation for retirement. Stokes chose this location due to the proximity to her residence and based on the current traffic that passes in front of the shopping center. Stokes testified that she does not intend to solicit customers through advertising but rather plans to capture the market consisting of the existing traffic that passes by the store daily. She intends to be an unobtrusive business owner and will not have garish or offensive signage. Further, she will not post any signage or advertising designed to appeal to children or teenagers. She will not provide any seating directly outside the proposed location and Stokes testified that she will contact local authorities if necessary to control any loitering.

The Protestants testified to various concerns with the proposed location. Carole Walters provided general testimony as a spokesperson for many of the Protestants. The Protestants expressed general fears regarding the type of clientele that the store will attract and its impact on the surrounding area. The Protestants believe that due to the number of residential neighborhoods nearby, the area should be limited to family friendly businesses. They do not consider a liquor store to be appropriate for the area. Additionally, the Protestants expressed safety concerns with the proposed location due to the fact that many of the neighborhood children and teenagers walk through the shopping center’s parking lot on their way to the swimming pool in the summertime. There are no sidewalks in the area, and the streets surrounding the proposed location are heavily traveled, resulting in traffic congestion during the morning and evening commutes. Therefore, the children generally traverse the parking lot to reach the swimming pool rather than walking on the sides of the street. The Protestants fear that the proposed liquor store would increase traffic in the area and increase the likelihood that a child could be struck by entering and exiting vehicles.

The Protestants also conducted measurements between the proposed location and various points of the Country Club. None of these measurements was less than 300 feet. The closest measurement was from the parking lot of the Country Club swimming pool to the parking lot of the shopping center, which resulted in an approximate measurement of 350 feet. The Protestants measured these distances in a straight line from one point to the other, through the vacant lot between the Country Club and the shopping center. The Protestants testified that they were unaware of Department regulations specifying how distance measurements are to be conducted. However, the Protestants asserted that their measurements demonstrated the general proximity of the swimming pool to the proposed location.

Finally, the Protestants testified that they feel there are already a sufficient number of retail liquor stores in the area, as there are five liquor stores within five miles of the proposed location and numerous locations that have beer and wine permits. The closest liquor store is 1.7 miles from the proposed location. They believe that the needs of the area are adequately served by the existing outlets. The Protestants also expressed fears that the opening of a retail liquor store in close proximity to their homes would result in devaluation of their property.

John Strickland also testified in opposition to the Petitioner’s application. Strickland stated that he first moved to this area in 1990 and that he selected this area in part due to his understanding that it would be an alcohol-free area based on information he received from the prior owner of the shopping center. He reiterated the concerns expressed by Walters concerning the safety of neighborhood children and the potential devaluation of his property.

Wilfredo Boerin also testified in opposition to the Petitioner’s application. Boerin is the closest resident to the proposed location. His home is diagonally across the street from the proposed location. He has a teenaged daughter and emphasized his concern for the neighboring children’s safety and the proximity of the swimming pool to the proposed location. Finally, Boerin testified that there are several existing liquor outlets in the area and requested that this license should be denied on that basis.

Finally, Debra Moyer testified in opposition to the Petitioner’s application. Moyer is a surgery technician at Shriner’s Hospital. Her testimony related to the alcohol-related traumas she has witnessed during her career. Further, she expressed a concern as to the lengths that underage persons will go to obtain alcohol and objected to a liquor store being licensed near these residential neighborhoods.


Based upon the foregoing Findings of Fact, the court concludes the following as a matter of law.

1. Jurisdiction

Jurisdiction over this case is vested with the South Carolina Administrative Law Court pursuant to S.C. Code Ann. §§ 1-23-310 et seq., § 1-23-600(B), and § 61-2-260. “[T]he issuance or granting of a license to sell beer or alcoholic beverages rests in the sound discretion of the body or official to whom the duty of issuing it is committed[.]” Palmer v. S.C. Alcoholic Beverage Control Comm’n, 282 S.C. 246, 248, 317 S.E.2d 476, 477 (Ct. App. 1984); see also Wall v. S.C. Alcoholic Beverage Control Comm’n, 269 S.C. 13, 235 S.E.2d 806 (1977). The weight and credibility assigned to evidence presented at the hearing of a matter is within the province of the trier of fact. See S.C. Cable Television Ass’n v. S. Bell Tel. & Tel. Co., 308 S.C. 216, 222, 417 S.E.2d 586, 589 (1992). Furthermore, a trial judge who observes a witness is in the best position to judge the witness’s demeanor and veracity and to evaluate the credibility of his testimony. See, e.g., Woodall v. Woodall, 322 S.C. 7, 10, 471 S.E.2d 154, 157 (1996); Wallace v. Milliken & Co., 300 S.C. 553, 556, 389 S.E.2d 448, 450 (Ct. App. 1990).

2. Suitability of Location

a. Generally

S.C. Code Ann. §§ 61-6-110 et seq. establish the general criteria for the issuance of retail liquor license. Included in the criteria is the requirement that the proposed location be a suitable one. See S.C. Code Ann. § 61-6-910(2); Schudel v. S.C. Alcoholic Beverage Control Comm’n, 276 S.C. 138, 276 S.E.2d 308 (1981).

b. Factors in Determining Proper Location

“Proper location” is not statutorily defined, but broad discretion is vested in the trier of fact to determine the fitness or suitability of a particular location for the requested permit. See Fast Stops, Inc. v. Ingram, 276 S.C. 593, 281 S.E.2d 118 (1981). In determining whether a proposed location is suitable, it is proper for this tribunal to consider any evidence that shows adverse circumstances of the location. Kearney v. Allen, 287 S.C. 324, 326, 338 S.E.2d 335, 337 (1985); Palmer, 282 S.C. at 249, 317 S.E.2d at 478 (citing Smith v. Pratt, 258 S.C. 504, 189 S.E.2d 301 (1972)). The determination of suitability of location is not necessarily solely a function of geography. Rather, it involves an infinite variety of considerations related to the nature and operation of the proposed business and its impact on the community within which it is to be located. Kearney, 287 S.C. at 326-27, 338 S.E.2d at 337; Schudel, 276 S.C. at 138, 276 S.E.2d at 308. Further,

a liquor license or permit may be properly refused on the ground that the location of the establishment would adversely affect the public interest, that the nature of the neighborhood and of the premises is such that the establishment would be detrimental
to the welfare . . . of the inhabitants, or that the manner of conducting the establishment would not be conducive to the general welfare of the community.

48 C.J.S. Intoxicating Liquors § 168 at 366 (2004).

Other factors may be considered when determining whether a location is proper. For example, a liquor license shall not be granted if the place of business is within 300 feet (if within a municipality) or within 500 feet (if outside a municipality) of any church, school, or playground. S.C. Code Ann. § 61-6-120.

Additionally, consideration can be given to the impact the issuance of the license will have on law enforcement. Fowler v. Lewis, 260 S.C. 54, 194 S.E.2d 191 (1973); Roche v. S.C. Alcoholic Beverage Control Comm’n, 263 S.C. 451, 211 S.E.2d 243 (1975). Denial is appropriate where the public areas surrounding the proposed location have been the source of constant law enforcement problems or significant problems with public intoxication. Roche, 263 S.C. at 451, 211 S.E.2d at 243. Another pertinent factor is whether police have been summoned to the scene on prior occasions when licensed to another party. Schudel, 276 S.C. at 141-42, 276 S.E.2d at 309-10. It is relevant whether the location is near other locations that have either been a constant source of law enforcement problems or are locations where young people congregate and loiter. Palmer, 282 S.C. at 250, 317 S.E.2d at 478.

Similarly, consideration can be given to whether the location is heavily traveled or creates a traffic danger. Id. Furthermore, whether the location has in the recent past been licensed and whether the location is now more or less suitable than it was in the past is a relevant factor. Taylor v. Lewis, 261 S.C. 168, 198 S.E.2d 801 (1973). Finally, a valid consideration is whether the surrounding area is substantially commercial. Id.; Byers v. S.C. Alcoholic Beverage Control Comm’n, 281 S.C. 566, 316 S.E.2d 705 (Ct. App. 1984).

The court may also consider the number of existing retail liquor stores in the area. S.C. Code Ann. § 61-6-910(3) and § 61-6-170. However, this factor must relate to the effect of overconcentration of retail liquor stores on the public welfare or the surrounding community. See John D. Geathers & Justin R. Werner, The Regulation of Alcoholic Beverages in South Carolina 196

(S.C. Bar 2007). “[A]ny claims that an area is adequately served by other licensed outlets must be based upon concrete evidence of adverse consequences of oversaturation, and not solely upon a mere aversion to the sale of alcoholic beverages.” Id. (citations omitted).

Without sufficient evidence of an adverse impact on the community, a license application must not be denied if the statutory criteria are satisfied. The fact that the issuance of a license is protested is not a sufficient reason, by itself, to deny the application. See 48 C.J.S. Intoxicating Liquors § 166 (2004). Moreover, the denial of a license to an applicant on the ground of unsuitability of location is without evidentiary support when relevant testimony of those opposing the requested license or permit consists entirely of opinions, generalities, and conclusions not supported by the facts. Taylor, 261 S.C. at 171, 198 S.E.2d at 802.

3. Conclusions

After carefully weighing the evidence and applying the law as discussed above, the court finds that the proposed location is suitable and otherwise meets the statutory requirements.

The proposed location is not within 300 feet of any church, school, or playground. Furthermore, although there are residences nearby, the area surrounding the proposed location is zoned as a “Neighborhood Commercial District.” The city of Easley zoning ordinance states that a Neighborhood Commercial District

is intended to meet the commercial and service needs generated by nearby residential areas. Goods and services normally available in this district are of the “convenience variety.” The size of any such districts should relate to surrounding residential markets and the locations should be at or near major intersections.

Further, the ordinance explains that “retail store[s] including convenience store[s], provided there is no external storage of inventory, parts, machinery or equipment” are permitted in this district.

The court finds that the Protestants’ concerns regarding the neighborhood children and the potential devaluation of their property, though sincere, are simply too general and speculative to warrant denial of the license sought. Moreover, the Protestants’ main concerns related to their fears regarding impaired drivers and children being negatively influenced by the presence of alcohol. Although children and teenagers congregate at the Country Club and the swimming pool located

there,[3] notably, the Country Club itself is licensed to sell beer, wine, and liquor. Further, the Country Club’s permits are for on-premises consumption. The court observes that the instant application is for a retail liquor store and, as such, no on-premises consumption is permitted. Accordingly, the risk regarding impaired drivers and the exposure of children to drunken behavior and other problems associated with nightclub-type establishments is appreciably lessened.[4] Additionally, Stokes testified that she intends to comply with the law that prohibits retail liquor stores from displaying advertisements that may appeal to an underage market. See S.C. Code Ann. § 61-6-1510. She further demonstrated an intent to proactively address any loitering. The court therefore finds that the Protestants’ fears are too tenuous to demonstrate an adverse impact on the surrounding community.

Although the Protestants expressed concerns regarding the number of liquor stores already located in Easley, there has not been a sufficient evidentiary showing that the proposed location is unsuitable for the Petitioner’s store or that issuance of a license for an additional retail liquor outlet would create problems in or have an adverse impact upon the surrounding community. Absent such a showing, the court finds it appropriate to let the market determine the proper number of retail liquor stores in the area.

The Protestants also voiced concerns that placing a liquor store here will increase traffic. However, Stokes testified that she simply hopes to capture the traffic that is already there and has no plans to advertise. Further, there is no evidence to suggest that traffic caused by licensing this location would be any greater than the traffic generated by any retail store that may lease this unit. See John D. Geathers & Justin R. Werner, The Regulation of Alcoholic Beverages in South Carolina 196-97 (S.C. Bar 2007).

Finally, no evidence was presented of law enforcement problems either at the proposed location or in the surrounding area. The court concludes that the Petitioner meets all of the statutory requirements to obtain a retail liquor license contained in S.C. Code Ann. §§ 61-6-100 et seq.


Based upon the Findings of Fact and Conclusions of Law stated above, the court finds that the Petitioner meets all of the statutory requirements for a retail liquor license. It is therefore

ORDERED that the Department shall GRANT Petitioner’s application for a retail liquor license for the premises located at 1350 D Crestview Drive in Easley, South Carolina 29642, in accordance with S.C. Code Ann. § 61-6-100.




Administrative Law Judge

March 27, 2008

Columbia, South Carolina

[1] The Department received other written protests as well, but as those Protestants did not appear at the hearing, their protests are deemed invalid. See S.C. Code Ann. § 61-6-185(C) (Supp. 2007).

[2] This intersection has moderate traffic that backs up during morning and evening commutes.

[3] The Protestants argue that the Country Club and pool constitute a “playground” within the statutory definition. Section 61-6-120 defines “playground” as “a place, other than grounds at a private dwelling, which is provided by the public or members of a community for recreation.” The Country Club is indisputably a private club; however, the Protestants contend that because it permits non-members to swim at the pool for a fee, it is a “place . . . provided by the public or members of a community for recreation.” The court rejects the notion that a private club that happens to allow non-members to use the swimming pool for a fee is a “playground” as contemplated by the statutory definition. Cf. K&K Enterprises, Inc. v. Penn. Liquor Control Bd., 602 A.2d 476, 479 (Pa. Commw. Ct. 1992) (noting that “playgrounds are designed for minor children exclusively”), cited in John D. Geathers & Justin R. Werner, The Regulation of Alcoholic Beverages in South Carolina 206-07 (S.C. Bar 2007) (noting that “playgrounds” under the statutory definition “must have some separate recreational facilities for children, such as ballfields, swings, or other playground equipment”).

[4] The court would remind the Petitioner that state law prohibits the sale of liquor to underage or intoxicated persons and that violation of this provision can result in revocation of a liquor license. S.C. Code Ann. § 61-6-1500.


Brown Bldg.






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