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Rock Hill reaches deal with skate rink busted for after prom party

A school bus sits parked outside Kate’s Skating Center on Monday. A new agreement between Kate’s and the city of Rock Hill will only allow dance parties around the Rock Hill school district’s break schedule.
A school bus sits parked outside Kate’s Skating Center on Monday. A new agreement between Kate’s and the city of Rock Hill will only allow dance parties around the Rock Hill school district’s break schedule. bmarchant@heraldonline.com

The hokey pokey is back.

The city of Rock Hill has reached an agreement with the owner of a local skating rink who said "Rock Hill police killed the hokey pokey" after breaking up a 2015 dance party.

The problem, police said, was that Kate's Skating Center on Celanese Road was not zoned to operate as a "dance hall."

Now, after a mediated court agreement was reached between the city and the business owner, the hokey pokey and other dances will be allowed to continue at Kate’s. Rock Hill City Council is scheduled to review and vote on the agreement at a meeting Tuesday.

Rink owner Rob Schisler said the agreement will allow Kate’s to continue hosting the kind of kid-friendly events he prefers after police shut down a prom after-party at the rink last April.

Rock Hill police officers showed up about 30 minutes into the party and issued a $1,092 fine to the operator, according to police reports from the time.

Schisler blamed that party on a marketing firm that rented out the space, and the terms of the new agreement limit dancing to children between the ages of 12 and 16.

“This gives kids something to do and keeps them off the streets, which I think is a good thing,” Schisler said. “It just allows us to keep doing what we’ve always been doing. We’ve been dancing since Jesus was a baby. We all grew up doing sock hops on the gym floor.”

But prior to April’s shut down, the city had warned Kate’s on other occasions that hosting dances violated city zoning and could threaten the rink’s business license.

On the night of April 25, police reportedly found about 100 teens dancing on the floor of the skating rink and the skates locked up for the night, with approximately 200 other teenagers waiting to get inside.

Two teens nearby, both 19, were arrested for carrying marijuana and a loaded pistol. They told police they were waiting to go inside through a “VIP” entrance, where they could avoid being searched.

City officials claimed Kate’s was effectively operating as a nightclub by hosting late-night dance parties, and nightclubs are more strictly regulated by the city’s zoning rules. Schisler told the Herald last April that he didn’t believe Kate’s designation as an “indoor recreational facility” precluded hosting dances, and maintains the business never violated any city rules.

At the time, he called the city’s actions an “injustice,” adding that “Rock Hill police killed the hokey pokey.”

Under the terms of the agreement submitted to the city council, Kate’s will be allowed to host “non-skating dance events,” but only on specific dates at designated times. Dance parties will be limited to the hours of 6 p.m. to 10 p.m. on Sundays during Rock Hill school district’s summer break or preceding a Monday school holiday.

Only teens between the ages of 12 and 16 would be admitted to the dance parties at these times. Kate’s will close one hour before “any applicable juvenile curfew” and must have at least three security personnel on site during any dance party.

Kids could be back on the dance floor as soon as the agreement is approved by the S.C. Court of Common Pleas, where Schisler had filed a challenge to the city’s zoning rules after April’s party was broken up. The terms of the deal will remain in force until the sides reach “a permanent resolution to this matter.”

Bristow Marchant: 803-329-4062, @BristowatHome

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