Opinion

Restaurant welcome

Rock Hill city officials should have just come out and explained that they intended to exploit a loophole in state law to help a restaurant owner get a liquor license and ensure that a new restaurant would open in the city's historic district. But despite the subterfuge, we like the end result.

Seven months ago, city leaders -- with a straight face -- told residents that downtown Rock Hill had a serious jaywalking problem. So serious, in fact, that a new jaywalking ordinance would be necessary to induce pedestrians to cross Main street only at marked intersections. It was a matter of public safety, they said.

Well, actually, it wasn't. Rock Hill may have some streets that pose a significant hazard to pedestrians who jaywalk. The stretch of Main Street between Dave Lyle Boulevard and Charlotte Avenue is not one of them.

The primary reason for passing the ordinance was to help Hall Dozier get a liquor license. Dozier has planned for more than a year to open a restaurant named Citizens Corner on the first floor of the newly renovated Professional Center at the corner of Main and Caldwell streets. But he said he wouldn't open a high-end eatery without a license to sell mixed drinks, which is understandable. Many restaurants couldn't survive without the high-profit sale of alcoholic beverages.

Unfortunately, state law says alcohol other than beer and wine cannot be served within 300 feet of a house of worship, and Rock Hill's Freedom Temple Ministries is two doors down from the restaurant site.

Not to worry, the city had a solution: If pedestrians were required to use a crosswalk at one end of Caldwell, that would increase the walking distance between the church and the restaurant. The added distance would put the restaurant just beyond 300 feet from the church.

And the ploy worked. After initially being denied a liquor license, Citizens Corner got its license in March.

And since the jaywalking ordinance has been in effect, how many citations have been issued to jaywalking miscreants? Zero.

Yes, the city was devious in misstating its motivations for enacting the law. And, yes, city officials should have been forthright about their real motives.

Ultimately, however, so what? The state rule against locating establishments that sell liquor within 300 feet of a church is pointless and arbitrary. Why allow the sale of beer and wine within that 300-foot barrier but not mixed drinks? How does the operation of a high-end restaurant interfere with the operation of a church?

Neither the Professional Center nor the Freedom Temple has moved an inch in the past seven months. Yet, because of a bogus jaywalking law, a state regulation has been dodged.

Ideally, the regulation, which serves no useful purpose, would be revoked. But that isn't going to happen anytime soon. Meanwhile, a new downtown restaurant will be a welcome addition to the city.

We don't like how the city went about this, but we're glad it did.

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