Originally created 02/20/00

Nightclub owner backs zoning plan

EDGEFIELD, S.C. -- If businessman Allen Curry could pick up his nightclub and move it, he would have loaded it onto a truck months ago.

The Edgefield resident said he wouldn't have located The Spott Nightclub and pool hall next to a residence if he had known how much of a mismatch they were. Although Mr. Curry never cared either way about zoning, he became a proponent shortly after his next-door neighbor began calling the police to complain about loud music coming from his club.

"Entertainment businesses should not be allowed to locate next to residential homes," he said. "They are totally incompatible."

Mr. Curry wants Edgefield County Council to pass the proposed ordinance that would zone large portions of the county. The council will hold its second public hearing on zoning at the Edgefield County Courthouse at 7 p.m. March 7.

Todd and Leigh Coughenhour live with their three young children in a mobile home about 200 feet from Mr. Curry's club on U.S. Highway 25 -- an area where commercial businesses and residences intertwine.

Since the bar opened its doors in November, the Coughenhours have complained to sheriff's officials more than 10 times about noise coming from the club. But Mr. Curry was fined only once for $200 for violating the county's nuisance ordinance, which states that excessively loud music is "any sound audible at a distance of 200 feet from its source."

Mr. Curry contends he bent over backward to appease his neighbors.

"I've sunk everything I've got into this business; that's why I'm trying so hard to work with the Coughenhours," he said. "And it would be crazy for me not to, they're my neighbors."

As soon as the Coughenhours told Mr. Curry the thumping music coming from his club was waking their children up at night, he began checking the sound levels with them every evening, he said.

Mr. Curry said he obliged them by walking into their home before the club opened at night to make sure the music wasn't audible from inside. When the Coughenhours said they couldn't hear anything, he would run down to the club and tape the mixer so no one could turn up the volume.

But different songs had different levels of bass, Mrs. Coughenhour said, so she called the police to complain.

"He's tried," Mrs. Coughenhour said. "We just shouldn't be neighbors."

The main problem is the loud patrons who pull into the parking lot of the club, she said. Although the parking lot is patrolled by the sheriff's department and Mr. Curry frequently asks club-goers to turn down their car stereos, people still pull in with music blaring.

"There's nothing I can do about that," Mr. Curry said. "I'm walking on eggshells as it is."

Although police officers called to the club usually don't find that Mr. Curry is violating the nuisance ordinance, the presence of law enforcement deters customers, Mr. Curry said.

"It's killing me," he said. "I thought I would see a profit by now, but when people pull in and see blue lights, they turn around and leave. They think there's been a shooting or something. They don't know the cops are just checking the volume of the music."

The Coughenhours, who have lived in their home for five years, are unhappy, too. They put a "for sale" sign up in their yard a couple of weeks ago.

"I'm ready to move where this can't happen," Mrs. Coughenhour said.

They are moving their family to Aiken County, where zoning separates residential homeowners from commercial businesses.

Although The Spott Nightclub will be grandfathered in if the ordinance passes this spring, the area will likely be zoned general development and will prohibit any new nightclubs from opening in zoned areas, County Administrator Wayne Adams said.

"I hope the Coughenhours find a place where they don't have to worry about any of this stuff," Mr. Curry said. "We're just victims of circumstance."

Reach Katie Throne at (803) 279-6895.


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