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Five Points bar Rooftop becomes the first to get liquor license renewal amid complaints

Rooftop bar in Columbia

Rooftop Bar and Lounge in Columbia's Five Points neighborhood is set to receive its liquor license renewal. Mike Fitts/The Post and Courier

COLUMBIA — Rooftop Bar and Lounge in Five Points will receive its liquor license renewal after reaching a deal with the S.C. Department of Revenue.

It will be the first of 11 bars in the district to get a license renewal after neighbors and, in four cases the University of South Carolina, filed objections.

The renewal order requires the bar to meet standards intended to ensure that underage drinkers are not served there, Revenue spokesman Tim Smith said.

Failure to meet those standards can result in the bar's license being revoked, Smith said.

Rooftop, located at 638 Harden St., already is following these best practices, according to attorney Michael Montgomery, who represented the business in its appeal to the S.C. Administrative Law Court.

Among the standards is required use of a forensic scanner to verify ID's, Montgomery told The Post and Courier on June 10. Rooftop already has one of the devices in service, he said.

The scanner uses cameras including an infrared check to verify that an ID actually was issued by a state, while most conventional scanners just check the barcoded information printed on the ID.

Bar owners and their attorneys have said that fake ID's that fool standard scanners are a major problem in Five Points. 

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The bar also is required to conduct follow-up ID checks of about 10 percent of customers as they buy drinks, even after ID's were scanned at the door.

Another requirement of the agreement: minimum prices of $3 for beer and $3.50 for liquor drinks without special promotions. 

While Rooftop is getting relicensed, other bars still are awaiting their days in court. 

Pavlov’s closed for April and May as part of an arrangement with the state revenue agency to settle a different outstanding issue, according to attorney Joe McCullough. It still needs to win its renewal.

Breakers and Breakers Live, the side-by-side bars at Harden and Greene streets, are closed while a new owner goes through the court process. A hearing is scheduled for June 15.

Moosehead Saloon at 2020 Devine St. has been closed and put up for sale by its owners.

USC has opposed the renewals of 10 bars since 2017, with spokesman Jeff Stensland saying that it was objecting on businesses that overserve underage students, serve little food and use aggressive marketing of specials to encourage dangerous behavior.

In the current batch of renewals, USC objected to the bids of Rooftop, Pavlov's, Moosehead and 5 Points Saloon.

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