COLUMBIA — A private club in Newberry has its liquor license back after the South Carolina Supreme Court decided Wednesday that state agents and revenue officials were too strict in their enforcement of rules over who can be a guest at the club.
The 3-2 decision keeps a broad definition for guests to nonprofit clubs across the state, which can serve beer, wine and hard liquor. The rules for the clubs require that guests be “bona fide” and either accompanied by a member or make arrangements with the club’s management to visit the premises.
The dispute began when an undercover State Law Enforcement Division agent was denied entry to the Blue Moon Sports Bar by a bouncer who pointed at a sign that asked anyone who was not a member to call a certain number.
The agent called, and a club member told the bouncer the agent could be let in because the owner told the workers anyone who called should be admitted as her guest.
The state Revenue Department revoked the club’s license, saying the term “bona fide” means the guest must have some relationship with a member. The bar also had two similar previous violations of the guest rules that it paid with fines.
A lower court overturned the decision, then the South Carolina Court of Appeals reinstated the revocation of the license, leaving the issue before the state Supreme Court.
The justices who ruled in the majority didn’t necessarily agree with the board definition of a guest, but they said the rule must be interpreted liberally because as written it does not allow authorities to try to determine what relationship a guest might have with a member.