Hilton Head Council starts process to revoke club's license

Club Prana could be first to shut down for violating 'nuisance' ordinance

July 6, 2010 

  • 150: Number of times since September 2008 that Beaufort County Sheriff's Office deputies have been asked to respond to 130 Arrow Road, the address of Club Prana. 106: Noise complaints there since September 2008. 49: Calls received by Sheriff's Office since November 2009, when Club Prana received a warning from the town. 8: Calls for fights since November 2009. 3: Calls for alcohol violations.

Club Prana, an island nightspot with a reputation for noise and rowdiness, might be the first Hilton Head Island club to lose its license under a 2009 law allowing Town Council to shut down "nuisance" businesses.

Above the protests of Club Prana's owners and operators, the council voted unanimously Tuesday to begin the process to revoke its license.

After several high-profile shootings at area nightclubs on New Years' Day 2009, the council approved an ordinance allowing it to revoke the license of any business with three or more serious incidents -- defined as assault and battery, aggravated assault or other violations thatcould injure a person -- during a six-month period or more than four in a year.

The club has been a problem since it opened in fall 2008, town officials say.

Since then, Club Prana has had more than 150 calls for service to the Beaufort County Sheriff's Office, an "excessive" number, Sheriff's Office Capt. Toby McSwain told the council.

The Sheriff's Office asked the town manager to send a warning letter to the club's owners, ordering them to tone it down or risk losing their license, in November 2009.

"Since then, we have had 49 more calls," McSwain said.

Those calls included 10 noise complaints from residents of Outdoor Resort, an RV park across the street; eight calls for fights; and three alcohol incidents, including one in which a 16-year-old girl was served alcohol and told she could receive alcohol for free if she put on a bikini, according to town attorney Brian Hulbert.

"(Club Prana's) numbers are higher than any other club on the island, and something needs to be done," McSwain said.

"Outside of sending patrols down there on a nightly basis, I'm out of ideas," he added.

On June 29, the town's finance department suspended the club's license, although the club has continued to operate since then, Hulbert said.

Representatives for the club said the scrutiny was unfair.

Club representative Jay Stevers, whose name is on the business license, told the council he did not receive proper notice of Tuesday's hearing.

Stevers and other club representatives declined to answer questions from the media after the meeting.

Brian Toadvine, a manager at the club, told the council much of the noise came from patrons in the parking lot and was out of the club's control.

Eli Bitton, a partner with the club's management company, AOE Entertainment, said the club is no noisier than other clubs on the island, including the "Barmuda Triangle," a group of bars near the Sea Pines traffic circle.

"We turn off the bass," and security guards do the best they can to combat underage patrons with fake identification, Bitton said.

"But it's like the war in Afghanistan out there trying to fight these guys with fake IDs," he told the council.

That excuse wouldn't hold with county Sheriff P.J. Tanner.

"This is a business that, even after being warned, continues to have issues, not policing their own establishment. The only result that should take place is a revocation of their business license," he said.

If Club Prana is the first island nightspot to lose its license, it won't be the last, Tanner predicted.

"We have given the town notice on several different problem areas," he said, declining to name them.

The license revocation process is expected to be completed in a month after town attorneys complete an investigation.

"I just can't find a reason to give you any sympathy," said Town Council member John Safay, a former nightclub owner himself.

"It's just too egregious, and I'm no saint, but it's too much," he said.

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