Kate’s Skate owner upset after police shut down after-prom dance party

Marquise Phillips
Marquise Phillips

The owner of Kate’s Skating Rink in Rock Hill claims his business was treated unfairly this weekend when police officers shut down an after-prom dance party with hundreds of teenagers.

The Saturday night party ended about 30 minutes after it started when Rock Hill police officers arrived. They cited the skating rink’s manager for an alleged city zoning code violation, fining her $1,092. She must appear in city court in three weeks.

The manager and the police department say the alleged zoning problem was the chief violation and that there have been few behavioral issues at the business.

The Celanese Road business violated city code by operating as a “dance hall” instead of a skating rink, according to the police report. City records show that Rock Hill staff members have warned the business several times over the past year to discontinue “dance parties.”

Owner Rob Schisler takes issue with the city’s findings that Kate’s can’t hold dances under its current zoning. The business is licensed as an indoor recreational facility, he said, and his reading of city zoning rules doesn’t preclude dances.

City officials disagree, saying a dance party causes the business to function more like a nightclub than a skating rink. A nightclub – under zoning rules – is considered a more intense use than a skating rink.

Zoning rules govern what types of uses are allowed in certain areas inside city limits in Rock Hill. Examples of zoning classifications include residential, commercial and industrial. Cities and counties use zoning rules and ordinances to limit incompatible uses from causing community issues, such as a nightclub opening near a church or a neighborhood.

The issue of whether dancing is allowed in the skating rink has come up with city officials before, Schisler said. A few years ago, he said, city employees met with him and his wife, claiming Kate’s couldn’t hold dance parties due to its zoning classification.

Since the meeting, Schisler said, he hasn’t heard from the city about Kate’s being in violation of zoning rules – until Saturday night.

He called this weekend’s incident a “major injustice.”

However, city officials showed The Herald two letters they sent to Schisler last summer pointing out the problem with dance parties in a building zoned for skating. The letters mentioned that Kate’s could lose its business license if it continued to hold dance parties.

Schisler says he doesn’t see a real difference between hundreds of teenagers dancing at his business and hundreds of people skating.

Two arrested nearby

Around midnight Saturday, police were notified of a large group of people lined up in front of the skating center. They arrived to find about 200 teens, ages 14 to 18, waiting in line at the entrance, according to the police report.

Inside, police noticed that no one was skating, all of the skates were locked up, and about 100 teens were dancing on the skating rink floor. A private security company was on hand charging $20 per person for general admission at the main entrance, police said, or $50 for a VIP side entrance.

Schisler and Sherian Leonard, the manager who was ticketed Saturday, said the officers’ report of the incident has several inaccuracies.

Kate’s was charging $10 per person and $20 for the VIP line, they said. Leonard said she personally supervised teens coming into the venue. All customers used the same entrance, she said, and all were subject to search by security officers.

The business had hired approximately 20 to 30 security officers, she said.

Police allege that security officers weren’t checking those customers who used the VIP line.

Just before breaking up the dance party, police arrested two Rock Hill men on drug charges. According to the police report, the men, both 19, told officers they were planning to use the VIP entrance at Kate’s to avoid being searched.

Marquise Phillips was charged with possession of a stolen pistol, which was loaded, according to a police report, and drug possession. Antonio Barber was charged with possession with intent to distribute marijuana. Officers reported finding 36 grams of marijuana in their car.

City has had complaints

Schisler and Leonard say they don’t see why the Kate’s Skate after-prom dance party has become a zoning issue with city officials. They’ve held the event for about seven years, the owner said.

In past years, the business paid Rock Hill police officers to provide security at the dances. Now, they use a private security company because it’s cheaper.

Police spokesman Mark Bollinger, however, told The Herald that a couple of years ago the police department discontinued providing officers to work security at Kate’s dance parties, after learning that such events violated city zoning.

Schisler hasn’t talked with city zoning officials or the police department since Saturday’s incident, he said. He has talked with an attorney about the issue and he plans to support his manager in court, including paying her fine, if necessary.

City officials say they have the power to strip Schisler’s business license but haven’t decided to take that step in response to the dance parties.

Such city zoning violations don’t often reach the point of severe punishment, said Bill Meyer, director of the city’s Planning & Development Department, which oversees business licenses and zoning matters.

Rock Hill officials have had complaints from businesses and residents close to Kate’s about the dance parties, Meyer said.

Schisler says Kate’s won’t be “antagonizing” city officials further and will “follow the letter of the law” for future events. Shutting down Saturday’s party, he said, “cost a fortune in revenues” and upset the teenagers.

“Rock Hill police,” he said, “killed the hokey pokey.”

Anna Douglas •  803-329-4068