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Administrative Law Court
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SC Administrative Law Court Decisions

Lila M. Washington, d/b/a Lila's Grocery vs. SCDOR

South Carolina Department of Revenue

Lila M. Washington, d/b/a Lila's Grocery

South Carolina Department of Revenue

Arsenal Hill Neighborhood Organization

James R. Barber, III, Attorney for Petitioner/Applicant

Timothy F. Rogers, Attorney for Intervenor



This matter comes before me pursuant to S.C. Code Ann. § 61-1-55 (Supp. 1993) and

S.C. Code Ann. §§ 1-23-310, et seq. (Rev. 1986 & Supp. 1993) upon an application for an

on-premises beer and wine permit for 621 Laurel Street, Columbia, South Carolina, by

Lila M. Washington filed with the South Carolina Department of Revenue and Taxation (hereinafter referred to as "DOR"). A hearing was held on January 5, 1995. The issues considered were: (1) the applicant's eligibility to hold a permit; (2) the suitability of the proposed business location; and (3) the nature of the proposed business activity.


It is undisputed that the area surrounding the proposed location has a drug and crime problem. The parties disagree, however, regarding the extent of the contributing effect, if any, that the sale of beer and wine at the proposed location has upon those problems. Applicant submits that the criminal problems exist and will exist regardless of her business and the sale of beer. Applicant maintains that the criminal activity occurs off of her premises, despite her best efforts, and beyond her control. Intervenor argues that the location is a magnet for undesirable persons and that the sale and consumption of beer and wine would only exacerbate an already dangerous and worrisome situation.

The difficulty comes in weighing Applicant's interest in earning an adequate profit to stay in business with the community's twofold, but conflicting, interest of having a neighborhood grocery within walking distance but not allowing the store, by selling beer and wine, to contribute to the crime problem in the area. The public interest should take precedent over the private interest. Considering the dual public interests at stake, it is difficult to accept convenience as a higher priority than safety. Accordingly, the application is denied.


By a preponderance of the evidence, I find:

(1) Applicant seeks an on-premises beer and wine permit for a location at 621 Laurel Street, Columbia, South Carolina, having filed an application with DOR, AI #99429.

(2) Notice of the time, date, place, and subject matter of the hearing was given to the applicant, protestants, and DOR.

(3) The proposed location is located in downtown Columbia on a busy thoroughfare surrounded by low to moderate income homes.

(4) The proposed location is currently operating as a small neighborhood grocery also preparing and selling hot food for off-premises consumption.

(5) The proposed location has been previously licensed to sell beer and wine under former owners.

(6) Applicant began operation of the proposed location in April, 1994, and sold beer and wine under the license of the previous licensee, Luke Fuller, until August, 1994.

(7) Immediately adjacent to the proposed location is a vacant lot, not under the ownership or control of Applicant, which has a long and continuing history of problems involving loitering, vagrancy, drug sales and use, and other criminal activity.

(8) Applicant has attempted to mitigate the crime problem in the area by cleaning up and painting the store, having outside lights installed, posting no loitering signs, and calling the police when problems come to her attention.

(9) Testifying in opposition to the application were: Officer S.M. Laney, Columbia Police Department; Gilbert Walker, Deputy Director of the Columbia Housing Authority; and Pearl Fogle, local resident and member of the Arsenal Hill Neighborhood Organization.

(10) Columbia Police Department officers have answered numerous calls and made arrests at or near the proposed location during the past two years, involving a variety of charges including larceny, assault, and distribution of crack cocaine.

(11) Residents of the area fear for the safety of themselves and their children from persons under the influence of alcohol and/or other drugs.

(12) The availability of beer and wine for consumption in the immediate vicinity of the proposed location is one of the contributing causes of the public safety problems in the area.

(13) From April - August, 1994, when Applicant was selling beer under the previous licensee's permit, she averaged selling approximately one hundred cans of beer per day.

(14) The applicant is over twenty-one years of age, is a resident of the State of South Carolina, and has maintained her principal residence in South Carolina for more than one year.

(15) The applicant has not had a permit revoked in the last two years.

(16) Despite convictions for misdemeanors in 1966, 1978, and 1989, Applicant is of suitable character and temperament to hold a beer and wine permit.

(18) Notice of the application appeared in a newspaper of general circulation in the area of the proposed location for three consecutive weeks and was posted at the proposed location for fifteen days.


Based upon the foregoing Findings of Fact, I conclude, as a matter of law, the following:

(1) The South Carolina Administrative Law Judge Division is empowered to hear this case pursuant to S.C. Code Ann. § 61-1-55 (Supp. 1993) and Chapter 23 of Title I of the 1976 Code, as amended.

(2) S.C. Code Ann. § 61-9-320 (Supp. 1993) provides the criteria to be met before issuance of a beer and wine permit.

(3) As the trier of fact, an administrative law judge is authorized to determine the fitness or suitability of the proposed business location of an applicant for a permit to sell beer and wine using broad but not unbridled discretion. Ronald F. Byers v. S.C. ABC Commission, 316 S.E.2d 705 (S.C. App. 1984).

(4) The proposed location is unsuitable for the sale of beer and wine because of the tendency of the location to attract vagrants, drug users, and drug dealers.

(5) The proposed business activity is not proper for the proposed location considering the impact of the sale and consumption of beer upon criminal activity in the area.

(6) The proposed location is unsuitable for the sale of beer and wine because of the residential nature of the community.


IT IS THEREFORE ORDERED that DOR deny the on-premises beer and wine permit applied for.




January 20, 1995

Columbia, South Carolina

Brown Bldg.






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