NORTH AUGUSTA - With a little help from friends, Randy Salter re-opened his family's North Augusta restaurant Monday, seven years after his father was forced to close it for refusing to serve blacks
Lunch-time diners at the former Buffalo Room, now the Seven Gables Restaurant, said the controversy was history. Many of the dozen or so customers from noon to about 12:30 p.m. said they came because they knew Mr. Salter or the restaurant's chef.
"I think that it's really good that it's open. (The controversy) was somewhat blown out of proportion," said one such customer, Randy Cato. "I'm just glad to see them getting it going again."
The refusal by Bruce Salter, the former owner of the bar and grill, to serve blacks was a "misfortune," Mr. Cato said. But the restaurant can be an asset to the community now, he said.
Although no black customers came to the restaurant on opening day, Randy Salter said the restaurant welcomes everyone. "I want people to be pleased when they leave," he said.
Among a crew of about 10 part-time workers, Allen Bryant, who is black, works at the restaurant waiting tables. He said he wasn't living in North Augusta when the restaurant refused to serve blacks.
But he said he has no qualms working for the new owner.
"I like working with the people I'm working with," he said.
The former Buffalo Room closed in October 1989 after the state Alcohol Beverage Control Commission forced Bruce and his wife Rose Salter to forfeit a liquor license held by Mrs. Salter.
For 10 years it was an open secret in North Augusta that the elder Salter wouldn't serve blacks. In 1989, the illegal practice was challenged when six government and NAACP officials
tried to eat at the restaurant. Bruce Salter met them outside and ordered them off his property, prompting the complaint that led to loss of the bar's license.
Efforts by the current owners, Randy Salter and his brother, James, to restore the liquor license have failed. But in February a circuit court judge cleared the way for James Salter to get the license from the South Carolina Department of Revenue if he agrees to bar his parents from setting foot inside the restaurant during operating hours. His parents and Randy, who has a 1982 felony marijuana conviction, also must be barred from involvement in operating the restaurant, according to the judge's order.
Ownership of the restaurant by the Salter brothers is unaffected by the order.
But, Randy Salter, who is currently managing the restaurant without a liquor license, said he will consider further legal action if state revenue officials force him to stop working at the eatery as a requirement for getting the license.
"If I get fired (as manager), I'll make them show just cause," he said.
The Seven Gables is open for lunch from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Monday through Friday.