Violation of Alcohol Beverage Licensing at Bluffton Club Leads to Criminal Charges and Arrests
Nine people were arrested and charged after a Bluffton, SC night club was raided based on reports of alcohol beverage licensing violations.
Arresting officers found that the club was operating without a business license, and also without a license to pour and sell alcohol, in violation of South Carolina’s licensing laws. The police officers confronted around 60 patrons at the establishment, and also uncovered several criminal violations as well.
Two patrons were found to have firearms, and the club owner, Keith Fernandez, was also found to have an illegal firearm. A fourth firearm without an owner appeared to have been left by a patron.
Officers also found about .16 grams of heroin on a patron.
Police seized about $260 in cash from cover charges, 59 rounds of ammunition, and 610 bottles of illegal alcoholic beverages. Fernandez was arrested and charged with operating without a business license, serving alcohol without an alcohol beverage license, unlawful manufacture, possession, and storage of alcoholic beverages, and unlawfully carrying a firearm on a liquor premises, among other business license charges.
Several patrons were charged with interfering with law enforcement, and three employees – Michael Horowitz, Carlos Jimenez, and Valerie Mora-Perez – were each charged for operating a business without a permit.
Unfortunately, business license violation charges can hurt a business owner’s changes of renewing their license or successfully applying for a future business or alcohol beverage license in the future. Many states, including South Carolina, are very strict about alcohol beverage licenses, and this type of business license could be denied for any reason. The most common reasons for denial of the alcohol beverage license include proximity to a church or school; evidence that the surrounding area is “not suitable” in other ways for a bar, restaurant, or other alcohol-serving business; or allegations of “bad moral character” on the part of the license applicant.
The “bad moral character” allegations can come from previous criminal convictions, past business license violations, or even mere rumors that make their way to the licensing board. It is important for business owners to clear their names of charges when they renew or apply for a business license or alcohol beverage license, but it is also important for business owners to know what constitutes a violation.
Violations of alcohol beverage licenses can include serving alcohol to minors (negligently or unintentionally); selling liquor during restricted hours (remember, several cities in South Carolina still have blue laws, meaning no alcohol sales on Sunday); violation of limits placed upon the license (for example, continuing to serve alcohol past a one-day permit); writing a bad check (this could easily be an accident, but it is difficult to defend against once the license has been denied); selling alcohol to someone who is not a “bona fide” guest; or violations of this license from an employee, without the business owner’s knowledge, which is more difficult to control.
Bars, night clubs, restaurants, and other food-and-beverage businesses must have both an alcohol beverage license and a retail or business license to operate. Check South Carolina’s retail, business, and alcohol beverage licensing laws thoroughly and make sure to apply for all necessary licenses and permits.