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

Lucca, LLC, d/b/a Trattoria Lucca vs. SCDOR

South Carolina Department of Revenue

Lucca, LLC, d/b/a Trattoria Lucca

South Carolina Department of Revenue

For the Petitioner:
James H. Harrison, Esquire

For the Respondent:
Andrew L. Richardson, Jr., 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. § 1-23-600(A) (as amended by 2008 S.C. Act No. 334)[1] and S.C. Code Ann. § 61-2-260 (Supp. 2007). The petitioner, Lucca, LLC, d/b/a Trattoria Lucca (“Petitioner” or “Lucca”), applied for an on-premises beer and wine permit pursuant to §§ 61-4-500 et seq. for the location at 41 Bogard Street in Charleston, South Carolina, 29403. Reverend Joseph Swinton, Jr., on behalf of Francis Brown AME Church, and Edward W. Brown, Rosemary Jenkins, Lorraine Graham, and Pamela Wright of the Board of Trustees for the Francis Brown AME Church[2] (“Protestants”) filed a written protest to the Petitioner’s application. Respondent South Carolina Department of Revenue (“Department”) denied the application pursuant to § 61-4-525 due to the receipt of the Protestants’ valid public protest. The Department determined that, other than the timely filed protest regarding the suitability of the location, the Petitioner met all of the statutory requirements.

After notice to the parties and the Protestants, the court held a hearing on this matter on August 18, 2008. Both parties and the Protestants appeared at the hearing. Evidence was introduced and testimony presented. After carefully weighing all of the evidence, the court finds that the Petitioner’s application for this location should be granted.


The only issue in dispute is the suitability of the location. §§ 61-4-520(5)-(6).


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.

Evidence was presented regarding all of the relevant statutory criteria. Notice of the time, date, place, and subject matter of the hearing was given to all parties and the Protestants.

The Petitioner seeks a permit for the retail sale of beer and wine for on-premises consumption for the location at 41 Bogard Street in Charleston, South Carolina, 29403. The proposed location is inside the municipal limits of Charleston. It is located at the intersection of Bogard and Ashe Streets, just north of Spring Street. Notice of the application was lawfully posted at the location and was published in a newspaper of general circulation.

Mr. Ken Vedrinski (“Vedrinski”) is the sole member and the chef of the business seeking the requested permit, Lucca. Vedrinski is over the age of twenty-one and has resided in South Carolina for thirteen years. Vedrinski has no criminal record and has never had a beer and wine permit or liquor license revoked.[3]

The Petitioner seeks the permit for an upscale neighborhood Italian restaurant that can seat up to forty-nine people. The area immediately surrounding the proposed location is primarily residential and the nearest church, Francis Brown AME Church, is located 175 feet from the proposed location.

Vedrinski offered testimony about the proposed location. When Vedrinski first signed a lease for the proposed location, the building had been vacant for some time and was in disrepair. He stated that it was falling down with bats infesting the upper floor. Since then he has undertaken substantial renovations, investing $250,000 of his own funds to upfit and renovate the interior of the

building for an upscale restaurant. The proposed location has two parking spots designated for its use and patrons may use available street parking. However, Vedrinski envisions that this restaurant will primarily serve the local neighborhood residents. The prices on a sample menu include individual menu items ranging from $9.00 to $32.00 as well as tasting menus ranging from $62.00 to $89.00 per person. Lucca will be open Tuesday through Sunday for dinner only, opening each night at 5:30 p.m. and closing at 10:00 p.m. on Tuesday through Thursday and at 11:00 p.m. on Friday and Saturday.

To open this restaurant in a residential area, Vedrinski first had to receive a zoning variance from the City of Charleston. Vedrinski stated that no one appeared at the zoning hearing to challenge the variance; rather, several residents from the community attended in support of his restaurant. The City of Charleston ultimately granted Vedrinski the zoning variance to establish this restaurant at 41 Bogard Street.

The Protestant offered the testimony of Joseph Grant, the past pro tempore trustee for Francis Brown AME Church, in opposition to the application. Francis Brown AME Church, established in 1901, is located 175 feet from the proposed location and considers itself a central part of the community by providing worship and congregation. Grant testified that the Protestants’ primary concern is parking. Grant stated that he does not question Vedrinski’s professionalism or quality as a chef, but that his concerns rest with traffic and parking issues. Grant stated that the streets surrounding the proposed location and the church are narrow two lane roads with on-street parking. Grant believes that the addition of a restaurant to this area will increase traffic and diminish the parking available for the church members as well as local residents. Grant also expressed concerns relating to the proximity of the proposed location to Francis Brown AME Church. Grant feels that 175 feet is too close of a distance between a church and an establishment serving alcohol and that, between the serving of alcohol and potential increased traffic, Lucca would adversely impact the community.


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

1. Jurisdiction and Review

Jurisdiction over this case is vested with the South Carolina Administrative Law Court pursuant to § 1-23-600(A) (as amended by 2008 S.C. Act No. 334) 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

Section 61-4-520 establishes the criteria for the issuance of a beer and wine permit. Included in the criteria is the requirement that the proposed location be a proper and suitable one. See §§ 61-4-520(5)-(6).

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 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. 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, although the General Assembly did not provide absolute statutory distance requirements for beer and wine permits as it did for liquor licenses, the proximity to residences, churches, schools, and playgrounds may be considered for beer and wine permits. § 61-4-520(6); Smith, 258 S.C. at 504, 189 S.E.2d at 301. Therefore, the decision as to whether the proximity is improper for a beer and wine permit must be made on a case-by-case basis resting upon the peculiar facts of each permit request.

Additionally, consideration can be given to the impact the issuance of the permit 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). Evidence that the granting of a permit will place a strain upon police to adequately protect the community must be weighed. Moore v. S.C. Alcoholic Beverage Control Comm’n, 308 S.C. 160, 162, 417 S.E.2d 555, 557 (1992). 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 v. S.C. Alcoholic Beverage Control Comm’n, 276 S.C. 138, 276 S.E.2d 308 (1981). 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 permitted 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).

Without sufficient evidence of an adverse impact on the community, a permit application must not be denied if the statutory criteria are satisfied. The fact that the issuance of a permit 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 permit 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.

c. Conclusions

After carefully weighing the evidence and applying the law as discussed above, the court finds the proposed location to be suitable. The court is mindful of the proximity of Francis Brown AME Church to the proposed location and the fact that the area immediately surrounding the proposed location is predominantly residential. However, the Protestants’ concerns do not rise to the level of warranting denial of the permit sought. While proximity to churches and residents may be considered in determining whether to issue a beer and wine permit, there is insufficient evidence that Lucca will adversely impact the community. In fact, based on the testimony the court finds that, overall, Lucca may be expected to have a positive impact on the community by providing a desirable neighborhood fine dining establishment. This is an upscale restaurant with an accomplished chef who plans primarily to provide quality food to local residents. There is no evidence that the patrons will disrupt the community or the nearby church. Nor was any evidence presented that the area is crime-ridden or inadequately protected by local law enforcement. Furthermore, the court observes that in determining whether to grant a zoning variance, the City of Charleston generally considers parking issues and, notwithstanding the limited parking, it granted Lucca a zoning variance.

Therefore, the court finds that, despite its proximity to the church, the proposed nature and operation of the business at this time renders the location a proper one. The court finds that the proposed location will assist revitalization of this area and will have an overall positive impact on the community.

The court encourages the Petitioner to prevent patrons from loitering outside of the proposed location and to be a good neighbor to the church and surrounding residents. The court would further remind the Petitioner and the Protestants that if the Petitioner does not comply with the alcoholic beverage laws, his permit can be suspended or revoked. See § 61-4-580.


Based upon the Findings of Fact and Conclusions of Law stated above, the Petitioner meets all of the statutory requirements for the issuance of an on-premises beer and wine permit. It is therefore

ORDERED that the Department shall GRANT Petitioner’s application for an on-premises beer and wine permit for the premises located at 41 Bogard Street in Charleston, South Carolina, 29403 in accordance with § 61-4-540.




Administrative Law Judge

August 19, 2008

Columbia, South Carolina

[1] The Administrative Procedures Act (“APA”) was amended and renumbered via 2008 S.C. Act No. 334 (eff. June 16, 2008). Accordingly, all citations to the APA in this Order are to the recently amended and renumbered sections enacted by 2008 S.C. Act No. 334.

[2] Rosemary Jenkins, Lorraine Graham, and Pamela Wright did not appear at the contested case hearing.

[3] Vedrinski is also a part owner and the licensee and permittee of a Daniel Island restaurant, Sienna Ristorante, which he has owned for six years without incident.


Brown Bldg.






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