Originally created 04/02/97

Alcohol returns to restaurant



NORTH AUGUSTA - More than seven years after state officials pulled the liquor license from the owners of the Buffalo Room for refusing to serve blacks, liquor is being served again at the site of the former North Augusta bar and grill.

The mini-bottle and beer and wine licenses were issued to George Poston, vice-president of Tra-Kim Inc., for the Seven Gables Restaurant - the new name for the Buffalo Room. The remodeled restaurant and lounge is located on Georgia Avenue, in front of the Seven Gables Motel.

Danny Brazell, spokesman for the state Department of Tax Revenue, said Mr. Poston signed an agreement Feb. 24 to operate the restaurant according to stipulations in a February 1996 court order. The license was issued March 7, Mr. Brazell said.

The court order required that the eatery be renamed. It also forbids the Buffalo Room's former owners, Bruce and Rose Salter, from setting foot inside the eatery during operating hours. They and their son Randy Salter, who was convicted on charges of distributing marijuana, are also barred from any involvement in the management, control and day-to-day operations of the restaurant.

On Tuesday, Randy Salter answered the phone at the restaurant, but said he wasn't managing or operating the Seven Gables. "I'm just overseeing improvements being done on the property," he said, adding that the court order doesn't bar his employment at the restaurant.

"I greet people at the door," he said. "I'm uninvolved basically."

Mr. Brazell said the license wouldn't have been issued unless Mr. Poston signed the agreement.

"As long as they meet those requirements, they are OK," he said. The court requirements are clear about Mr. Salter having no involvement in day-to-day operations, and state officials wouldn't consider any special concessions that would override the court, Mr. Brazell said.

"If he is (there), it sounds like he'd be in violation," he said.

The restaurant is on the same property as the Seven Gables Motel, which isn't a part of the court order. Mr. Salter is a co-owner of the restaurant and motel with his brother, James Salter, who is the sole stockholder of Tra-Kim Inc., a corporation that leases the land to the brothers.

In October 1989, the state Alcohol Beverage Control Commission forced the elder Salters to forfeit a liquor license held by Rose Salter. In December of that year, the U.S. Justice Department dropped a federal lawsuit against the Salters after they admitted that evidence showed they practiced racial discrimination.

On Sept. 5, 1989, Bruce Salter, then, 71, barred six NAACP and community leaders, including then state NAACP Director Nelson Rivers III and Aiken County Councilman Willar Hightower Jr., from entering the restaurant.