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CLAXTON (WATE) – A Claxton congregation is upset that a loophole in an Anderson County law allows a bar to be open next to a church.
Members of The Rock Ministry Center were getting ready for their evening service Wednesday night, while next door bartenders at Silver Dollar Saloon were also getting ready for their evening service.
The bar sits in Anderson County on Clinton Highway, just 300 feet away from the church. That has the congregation angry and local officials scratching their heads how this could happen when county law requires bars to be 810 feet away from churches.
"We're seeking the presence of the Lord and it is not congruent and it is not acceptable to us to have that next door to us," said Pastor Perry Benson, of The Rock Ministry Center.
The proximity of the recently-opened bar to the church is because of a supposed grandfather clause.
"There's a loophole in the state law that allows a beer permit to be transferred to another location," explained Anderson County Commissioner Tracy Wandell.
A convenience store called Smoke and Boats used to be where the bar now sits. The bar's owners were able to transfer the store's beer permit to their new establishment in December.
Commissioner Wandell says that should never have happened.
"I believe the permit should be revoked," he said.
Pastor Benson says he has reviewed the law and says there is no question.
"There's not a loophole, it's not fuzzy. It's straight up," Benson said.
Pastor Benson and his congregation, as well as some nearby residents, want something done now.
"The community is complaining about the noise. It's been a very quiet community," he explained, saying there have been noise violations since it opened in mid-December.
Pastor Benson says he's not upset with the bar, but with who ever allowed the permit to happen.
"They are in violation of the law at the county's hand, at the beer commission, or beer board's hand," he said.
Benson added he didn't believe the violation was necessarily intentional.
The County Commission will hold a special beer board meeting and issue a show cause hearing on the bar's permit questions in the near future.
The owners of Silver Dollar Saloon said they have no comment at this time, but they are contacting a lawyer to discuss the situation.