Richland County Sheriff: Club illegally operating as sexually explicit business

The Richland County Sheriff's Department is cracking down on illegal clubs, and announced another one that was unlawfully acting as a strip club.


Columbia, S.C. (WOLO) — The Richland County Sheriff’s Department is cracking down on illegal clubs, and announced another one that was unlawfully acting as a strip club. ‘Tryst’ off River Drive in Columbia has not been following restrictions to legally operate as a restaurant.

RCSD issued a ‘Stop Work Order’ for the establishment, after obtaining a warrant and entering early Sunday morning. Deputies found more than a dozen women racking to put clothes on. The order prohibits sexually oriented business from continuing on at the establishment, although they are legally allowed to still operate as a restaurant.

“When you’re dancing and you have no clothes on, and then you’re taking money for sex, that’s a sexually oriented business. And that’s what we had her,” said Richland County Sheriff Leon Lott.

He said Tryst is one of more than half a dozen clubs that has been operating illegally in Richland County. Per Tryst’s ordinance, it was not allowed to be opened past midnight. The parking lot is routinely full past midnight, into the early morning.

“They blatantly just disregarded anything that was in the order and what they agreed to,” said Lott.

Lott said an undercover cop collected video evidence of the strip club operating, as well as acts of prostitution.

“The restaurant part, the kitchen part, had absolutely no food. So it wasn’t a restaurant, it was just a strip club,” said Lott. “We expect to make arrests on prostitution.”

Since July 25, when the Sheriff put a padlock on Club Laroice, there’s been a decrease in crime at the troublesome clubs.

“We haven’t had a shooting at a club, and that’s rare. We were having them almost every weekend,” said Lott.

Tryst used to be a strip club by a different name, until the community worked to get it shut down. At the previous establishment, there had been a homicide.

Then, in July 2017, the owners legally reopened the business as ‘Tryst’ with the understanding it was a restaurant with no sexually oriented business. The restrictions Tryst should be operating under are on the wall inside the establishment.

Authorities have responded to about 20 calls at Tryst in the past two years, with calls ranging from assaults to disturbance.

Lott said authorities cannot do anything further until the South Carolina Department of Revenue takes action, which may take up to 90 days.

“We’ve taken action and we will continue to take action against these clubs that are operating illegally,” said Lott.

The Department of Revenue send the following statement to ABC Columbia:

The South Carolina Department of Revenue (SCDOR) has been opposed to issuing an alcohol license to Tryst from the beginning. We originally denied the license, but it was appealed to the Administrative Law Court. The Court granted the license with certain stipulations. The SCDOR made revoking Tryst’s license a priority since we learned about the violations of the Court order.

SCDOR has initiated the license revocation process. South Carolina law provides Tryst 90 days to protest the notice of intent to revoke the license. The SCDOR believes ultimate revocation is justified as Tryst is blatantly violating the Court order and the two restrictions on its license. However, the SCDOR cannot simply “close the doors” of Tryst without a court order obtained after affording Tryst due process under the law.

Categories: Local News, News, Richland