A church-affiliated retirement community is ending its effort to serve liquor but will continue to seek a beer and wine license after the state rejected its request to serve alcohol.
“We will drop the liquor portion,” The Oaks President and Chief Executive Officer the Rev. James McGee said. “We will protest denial and have a hearing before an administrative law judge, which is required any time you have even one protest.
“It is a legal process and we will continue the process.”
Springfield United Methodist Church member Nona Douglas said despite plans to drop the liquor license application, she still is opposed to a beer and wine license being issued. She is concerned about mixing medicine with alcohol and its potential negative impact on the health of seniors.
Douglas also referenced The Oaks’ church affiliation, saying “To me it is all alcohol.”
The S.C. Department of Revenue said it rejected The Oaks’ request for a beer and wine license as well as a liquor-by-the-drink license “due to not meeting the distance requirements” which state that a liquor license cannot be issued “if the place of business is within three hundred feet of any church, school or playground.”
The Oaks campus has a chapel on site for its residents.
According to the license denial letter mailed to The Oaks June 4, the denial was also issued for “the failure to submit requested information to the SLED (State Law Enforcement Division) agent.”
SCDOR spokeswoman Samantha Cheek said, “The SLED agent must verify the address with the applicant, and was unable to do so. This may mean that the applicant failed to submit a copy of the lease.”
McGee said The Oaks successfully submitted all the necessary materials and said there was some confusion in that The Oaks owns and does not lease the property.
“The attorney will resolve that. We submitted everything,” he said.
The Oaks now has about three months to protest the denial. A hearing date will then be scheduled by the Administrative Law Court.
SCDOR received more than 20 letters from people opposed to The Oaks’ applications for a license to serve beer and wine, as well as one to serve liquor by the drink.
The Oaks officials say its 21-member board of trustees approved the applications and that the majority of residents approved of them.
The Oaks submitted the applications in an effort to allow its residents and guests to purchase alcohol in the existing dining room. The Oaks currently allows residents to bring alcoholic beverages to the dining room. Residents also provide wine for special occasions.
The Oaks is an independent, non-profit corporation and is not owned by the United Methodist Church. The church does appoint its board of directors.
Oaks trustee and the only dissenting vote against the application, the Rev. Boyd Chewning, said he can live with the beer and wine license.
“For me, selling liquor makes it a bar,” he said. “I don’t think we are in the business to operate a bar.”
Under the present rules “you can have whatever you want in your living quarters,” he said. “Who am I to tell you what you can or cannot have in your house?”
Chewning noted that The Oaks does allow wine to be served on special occasions.
“I don’t like it, but I can live with it,” he said. “I don’t have to do it.”
Chewning said of particular concern is the interaction of alcohol with medications.
“I just don’t feel like we need to expose our residents to this kind of temptation,” he said.
Lionel L. Caughman, a member of Neeses United Methodist Church, said she is still opposed to the license even without the sale of liquor.
“I don’t feel like they need to dispense alcohol. If an individual wants it, they can obtain it but not through The Oaks,” she said.
McGee has noted moderate alcohol consumption is often recommended by doctors for its health benefits.
The Oaks officials have said other retirement and assisted-living communities both affiliated with the United Methodist Church or other churches within the state are already selling alcoholic beverages on their campuses.
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