Rock Hill considers stricter rules for restaurants serving alcohol

adouglas@heraldonline.comMay 13, 2013 

The city of Rock Hill is hoping to improve the quality of life in some of its neighborhoods by better regulating businesses that are categorized as restaurants but serve alcohol and operate more as a bar or nightclub.

City Council members gave their initial approval to the zoning law changes in April but delayed a vote on Monday, which puts off any changes from going into effect.

It’s hard to strike a balance between protecting neighborhoods and not stifling a property owner’s business or ability to sell ther establishment, said Mayor Pro Tem John Black and several fellow council members.

The city’s planning department is recommending that Rock Hill use three categories instead of one to define restaurants.

A fourth category would include all bars and nightclubs “where food service is secondary and most business is done outside of traditional meal times,” according to the staff’s suggestion.

The three restaurant categories would differentiate among restaurants that do not serve alcohol, restaurants that serve alcohol but do not stay open late and restaurants that serve alcohol and stay open past midnight.

State law prevents any establishment from serving alcohol past 2 a.m.

Existing bars and restaurants in Rock Hill would not be affected but would be grouped in one of the four categories proposed, if the council approves the change. These properties would be “grandfathered in” and allowed to stay open.

If the business closed down without someone opening it with a similar use within six months, the grandfathered status would not be recognized.

One reason the council delayed a vote Monday was to increase the time period from six to 12 months of honoring the grandfathered designation.

Extending it to 12 months may be a good idea, said Mayor Doug Echols, because it gives business owners a chance to find a buyer for their property who can reopen a similar establishment.

If a bar or restaurant serving alcohol near a neighborhood closed for more than one year, a new owner or the same owner could open back up only through a public hearing and special exception from a city commission.

Often, residents don’t mind late-night restaurants near their neighborhoods and don’t voice concern about an establishment reopening, said Bill Meyer, Rock Hill’s planning director.

The public hearing could be especially important if someone buys a house near a closed bar or restaurant without realizing a new owner could reopen and disturb them, said council member Kathy Pender.

Business incentives

Also on Monday, council members unanimously approved on first reading two incentive packages to help companies expand.

One company – dubbed “Project Heartland” – plans to invest $18 million and create about 75 jobs that will pay above York County’s average hourly wage.

The business, which has been in Rock Hill since 1991, plans to bring machine equipment from an operation in Indiana and from overseas.

The York County Council gave its initial approval last month to grant the company a 43 percent reduction on its property tax bill over the next 30 years.

Under Rock Hill’s incentive agreement, Project Heartland will not pay city taxes for five years in exchange for expanding its operation and creating jobs.

Officials expect that the company will be identified by the end of the week.

The council also approved an incentive agreement with Oerlikon Balzers Coating USA, a manufacturing company in Rock Hill’s TechPark, off Dave Lyle Boulevard.

The Rock Hill plant is one of 10 coating centers that Oerlikon Balzers operates nationwide. The company is an international corporation with more than 90 coating centers worldwide, including three newly opened in China, India and Malaysia.

Last year, York County granted Oerlikon Balzers a 43 percent reduction in property tax for the next 30 years.

Oerlikon Balzers has begun its expansion in Rock Hill of $10 million in investment and creating 20 new jobs.

Anna Douglas •  803-329-4068

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