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Administrative Law Court
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SC Administrative Law Court Decisions

Charleston Fine Wine, Inc. d/b/a Total Wine & More vs. DOR

South Carolina Department of Revenue

Charleston Fine Wine, Inc. d/b/a Total Wine & More
1820 B Ashley River Rd., Charleston, SC

South Carolina Department of Revenue

Kenneth E. Allen, Esquire, and James H. Harrison, Esquire, for the Petitioner

Dana R. Krajack, Esquire, for the Respondent

Thomas W. Cavanaugh and John F. Morrill, Protestants



This matter comes before the Administrative Law Court (Court) pursuant to S.C. Code Ann. §§ 61-6-100 et seq. (Supp. 2003), § 61-6-910 (Supp. 2003), and §§ 1-23-310 et seq. (1986 and Supp. 2003) for a contested case hearing. The Petitioner, Charleston Fine Wine, Inc. d/b/a Total Wine & More, seeks a retail liquor license. The Respondent, SC DOR, would have granted the license but for the protests. The Protestants have raised concerns about the number of beer and wine permits and retail liquor licenses in the area. A hearing was held on this matter on May 3, 2004, at the offices of the Court in Columbia, South Carolina.


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

1.Notice of the time, date, place and subject matter of the hearing was given to the Petitioner, the Respondent, and the Protestants.

2.The Petitioner, Charleston Fine Wine, Inc., d/b/a Total Wine & More, is seeking a retail liquor license. The proposed location is located at 1820 B Ashley River Road, Charleston, South Carolina. David J. Trone is the president of Charleston Fine Wine, Inc., d/b/a Total Wine & More.

3.The qualifications set forth in S. C. Code Ann. § 61-6-110 (Supp. 2003) concerning the age, residency, and reputation of Mr. Trone and Charleston Fine Wine, Inc. are properly established. Furthermore, Mr. Trone has not had a license for the sale of alcoholic liquors revoked within the last five years and notice of the application was lawfully posted both at the location and published in a newspaper of general circulation, as required by § 61-6-180.

4.Mr. Trone has no criminal record and is of sufficient moral character to receive a retail liquor license.

5.There was no evidence that the proposed location is within three hundred feet of any church, school or playground, as provided in § 61-6-120 (A).

6.No other member of the Mr. Trone’s household has been issued a retail liquor store license. Additionally, the Petitioner has not been issued more than three retail liquor licenses, nor does he have an interest, financial or otherwise, in more than three retail liquor stores.

7.Mr. David A. Simmons, a Charleston real estate developer, testified that as a landlord

he is comfortable with Charleston Fine Wine, Inc. as a tenant. In addition, the proposed location was previously a Harris-Teeter grocery store which had an off-premises beer and wine permit. Mr. Simmons was not aware of any violations or protests during the time the Harris-Teeter store was operating. In addition, he testified that the area is heavily commercial with several other retail liquor and off premises beer and wine permits in the area.

8.Furthermore, Eric Nichols, the commercial real estate agent, testified that he

represents large retailers. He focused on the west Ashley area of Charleston as the most active retail area of Charleston. He also noted that there were several other alcohol outlets in the area.

9.The Protestants addressed the Court. Mr. Cavanaugh and Mr. Morrill both own and

operate retail liquor stores in Charleston county, and felt that the area is adequately served. Both were concerned that existing Charleston county stores would be hurt by a retailer of this magnitude, especially in light of the number of alcohol outlets in the area. Although the Protestants’ convictions are strong, their arguments do not rise to the level of adequate grounds to prevent issuance of the license.

10. I find the proposed location to be suitable for a retail liquor license.


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

1.S.C. Code Ann. § 1-23-600 (Supp. 2003) grants jurisdiction to the Administrative Law Court to hear contested cases under the Administrative Procedures Act. Furthermore, S.C. Code Ann. § 61-2-260 (Supp. 2003) grants the Court the responsibilities to determine contested matters governing alcoholic beverages, beer and wine.

2.S.C. Code Ann. §§ 61-6-110 et seq. (Supp. 2003) sets forth the requirements for

determining eligibility for a retail liquor license.

3.S.C. Code Ann. § 61-6-170 (Supp. 2003) states

“the department (South Carolina Department of Revenue) may, in its discretion, limit the further issuance of retail dealer licenses in a political subdivision if it determines that the citizens who desire to purchase alcoholic liquors therein are mote than adequately served because of (1) the number of existing retail stores, (2) the location of the stores within the subdivision, or (3) other reasons.”

The Department did not take such action in this case. They specifically did not oppose this license and would have granted it, but for the protest.

4.Although “proper location” is not statutorily defined, broad discretion is vested in the trier of fact in determining the fitness or suitability of a particular location. Fast Stops, Inc. v. Ingram, 276 S.C. 593, 281 S.E.2d 118 (1981). As the trier of fact, the Administrative Law Judge is authorized to determine the fitness or suitability of the proposed business location for a license to sell liquor using broad, but not unbridled, discretion. Byers v. South Carolina ABC Commission, 281 S.C. 566, 316 S.E.2d 705 (Ct. App. 1984). The determination of suitability of location is not necessarily a function solely of geography. It involves an infinite variety of considerations related to the nature and operations of the proposed business and its impact upon the community within which it is to be located. Kearney v. Allen, 287 S.C. 324, 338 S.E.2d 335 (1985). Additionally, without sufficient evidence of an adverse impact on the community, the application must be granted if the statutory criteria are satisfied. The fact that a Protestant objects to the issuance of a license is not a sufficient reason by itself to deny the application. See 45 Am. Jur. 2d Intoxicating Liquors § 162 (Supp. 1995); 48 C.J.S. Intoxicating Liquors § 119 (1981).

5.In considering the suitability of a location, it is relevant to consider whether the testimony in opposition to the granting of a license is based on opinions, generalities and conclusions, or whether the case is supported by facts. Smith v. Pratt, 258 S.C. 504, 189 S.E. 2d 301, (1972); Taylor v. Lewis, et al. , 261 S.C. 168, 198 S.E. 2d 801 (1973). There was no testimony or other evidence submitted as to the specific adverse impact that the granting of this particular license would have on the community. There were no concrete facts or incident reports submitted, only conjecture and concerns by the Protestants.

6.The Petitioner meets the statutory requirements for holding a retail liquor license at the proposed location.


Based upon the above Findings of Fact and Conclusions of Law,

IT IS HEREBY ORDERED that the retail liquor license of Petitioner Charleston Fine Wine, Inc., d/b/a Total Wine & More of Columbia, Inc. for the location at 1820 B Ashley River Road, Charleston, South Carolina, be granted upon the Petitioner’s payment of the required fees and costs, and upon final inspection by the State Law Enforcement Division under SC Code Ann. § 61-6-1510 (Supp. 2003).




Administrative Law Judge

May 18, 2004

Columbia, South Carolina

Brown Bldg.






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