Finish Line Cafe isn't finished, after all.
The Columbia County establishment had been audited and a committee had recommended Dec. 13 to not renew its alcohol license for 2005 after the audit determined the business missed a required percentage of food sales this year.
On Tuesday, however, the Columbia County Commission agreed to renew Finish Line's license for next year because of what some commissioners said was an ambiguity in the county ordinance, which requires restaurants to sell at least 50 percent of food in order to make sure an establishment is run more like a restaurant instead of a bar.
"I still think there's a certain level of ambiguity in the ordinance,'' Commissioner Steve Brown said. "How do you enforce a code with ambiguity in the ordinance?''
That "ambiguity'' was brought to the forefront at Tuesday's commission meeting after Bill Williams, a lawyer representing the owner of Finish Line, told the commission the ordinance does not give a firm definition of what the term "total sales" means. He said that although the ordinance states that at least 50 percent of an establishment's total sales should be food, there is no wording about whether such things as vending machines should be factored into the total sales column.
He said that the audit recently conducted on Finish Line included money made off a jukebox and video games, and that if funds made from those vending machines weren't factored into the total sales column for Finish Line, leaving only food and alcohol sales, Finish Line would have exceeded the county's 50 percent food sales requirement.
"She's not pretending to run as a restaurant and really running a bar,'' Williams said.
County Attorney Doug Batchelor said he believes any profits made off a sale at the restaurant could be included in the sales column. Still, the commission voted 4-0 to renew the license for another year and look into ways to amend the alcohol/food sales ordinance to remove any ambiguity in the future. The business's co-owner, Angie Bridges, had said Finish Line would have had to close down if it didn't get a renewal on its alcohol license for next year.
Commissioner Dianne Ford abstained on Tuesday's vote, saying she wanted the issue to go through a committee for further consideration. Commission Chairman Ron Cross said the only problem is such a move would be too close to the end of the year.
In other action at Tuesday's meeting, the commission voted 5-0 to approve a permit for a burial relocation and mitigation plan for several graves that were recently found on a site where the Marshall Square development will go.
At least nine graves - four marked - have been found at the site, which will cover more than 57 acres off North Belair Road. The site will include high-end retail offerings and residential space and have its first phase started next year.
Indentations also are present at the site for the remaining five graves.
There had been some speculation among officials that the unmarked graves might be the final resting places of slaves. Two county residents have attended county meetings, arguing that more should be done to track down ancestors of those buried there. The residents also argued that if the unmarked graves are those of slaves, their history should be preserved with a marker.
On Tuesday, Mark Newell, who researched the site for developers, said markers would be placed at the site where the graves would be relocated. He also said all appropriate steps are being taken to track down relatives and to determine who is buried in the unmarked graves.
Officials say the graves that are marked belong to Marshall Keith; his daughter Mary Isham Jones; her husband, William Jones, who was a cotton gin maker from Wales; and their son Thomas Isham Jones. The dates of those buried there vary from 1841 to 1867.
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