Deer causes a damaging stir at Anderson Road eatery

A window is boarded up at Tropical Escape Cafe on Anderson Road after a deer crashed through it on Saturday.
A window is boarded up at Tropical Escape Cafe on Anderson Road after a deer crashed through it on Saturday.

Roger Baldwin has dealt with his fair share of wild customers at Rock Hill's Tropical Escape Cafe.

But the restaurant and bar owner has never hosted anything quite as wild as the deer that jumped through his glass window Saturday afternoon, acting less than Bambi-like as it bucked and scratched its way through his tavern.

Tropical Escape suffered the most damage Saturday when a group of deer panicked after crossing Anderson Road around 1:30 p.m., according to a York County Sheriff's Office report.

"It was crazy. They were really scared," said Baldwin, whose restaurant was closed during the incident. "We were lucky nobody was inside."

Baldwin said more than a dozen deer crossed the five-lane highway from a wooded area behind One Stop Auto Sales and gathered in the Twenty One Plaza parking lot.

Most of the frightened animals tried to make their way behind the row of businesses, but Baldwin said a 150-pound doe crashed through his front window and into the empty dining room.

The animal panicked and began kicking over tables before running down a back hallway, where it became trapped, he said. A second deer broke some glass at a neighboring business, but it did not enter that building, the report states.

Baldwin had been in the restaurant earlier in the day catching up on paperwork, but he left just minutes before the deer arrived. He returned when authorities called to tell him what happened.

"I guess they were just jumping through the window to eat here," Baldwin quipped on Monday.

But it was no joke on Saturday. The deer caused about $2,000 in damage, he said, and resulted in four hours of cleanup work. Authorities were forced to kill the deer before removing it from the restaurant, and a second deer was killed by a car when it crossed the road.

"It's unfortunate, but it was injured pretty bad, so we had to put it down," said Officer Mark Ferrell of the S.C. Department of Natural Resources. "There are trees painted on the window, so I don't know if it thought it was jumping back into the woods or what."

State wildlife officials said it's uncommon in South Carolina for deer to jump through glass windows -- it happens about twice a year -- but it's not unusual for a group of deer to appear in a populated area.

Charles Ruth, deer project supervisor for the DNR, said deer have learned to adapt to smaller habitats in growing areas. He said groups of deer have been known to make their homes in small wooded areas, even in the middle of town.

Because deer mostly are nocturnal, Ruth said a person or another animal, perhaps a dog, likely spooked the deer on Saturday, inciting the panicked behavior.

"They aren't real big thinkers," Ruth said. "And when they get into trouble, they just go into flight mode."

Baldwin, who has made headlines recently for turning Tropical Escape into one of the area's first smoke-free bars, has a different explanation for his wild guest.

"I heard there might have been a brush fire in the woods, and the deer were just trying to find a smoke-free environment," he joked. "At least, that's the story I'm telling everyone."