Representatives for a Greenville restaurant that was threatened with revocation of its business license earlier this month are speaking out against what they call a grave misconception about their business, how it operates and what it provides the community.
Christopher Johnson, who has been a part of Dolce, a restaurant on White Horse Road, since it opened 2½ years ago, made his case at a news conference Tuesday afternoon.
Dolce has been closed since July 5.
Johnson, who was joined by Bruce Wilson and Travis Green, both of Black Lives Matter, called the conference to address Greenville County’s decision to revoke the restaurant’s business license following a shooting July 4 where a security guard was wounded and the shootings at Lavish Lounge July 5 where two people were killed and eight were injured. Dolce sits just yards from Lavish Lounge.
On July 9, Greenville County officials sent a letter to Dolce owners revoking the restaurant’s business license due to, among other reasons “failure to provide sufficient security measures to protect people and property located on or in the immediate vicinity of the premises.”
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“All we are looking for is to be treated fairly,” Johnson said, speaking from inside Dolce where tables were spaced six feet apart and TVs were showing a soccer game. Johnson said he hoped to be open this weekend, but had not yet decided.
“We had to reach out to lawyers and talked to friends and family and put this meeting together because I want everybody to know we are not what they say.”
Sheriff Hobart Lewis said he stood by his recommendation that Dolce’s license be revoked, saying in a statement that the restaurant “has proven to be both a public nuisance and outright danger to the community.”
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Lewis said his office had responded to more than 40 calls for service at the restaurant since January 2019.
Johnson said he felt conflicted about calling the police for fear of his establishment being labeled unsafe when he said he and owners were doing a lot to ensure safety.
“So, if we call the police because we pay taxes and we need their help, our security caught somebody with a gun and want to put them on trespassing they have to call the police but shame on us for even trying,” Johnson said.
Johnson said Dolce and Lavish are separate and added that while both are late-night establishments, Dolce is a restaurant and serves no alcohol.
He addressed the shooting at Dolce July 4, saying the restaurant’s private security confronted and apprehended the suspect immediately.
He also addressed accusations in the county’s letter that Dolce made a “false and inaccurate” statement in its business registration and that it was similar to a strip club. The restaurant follows a “Twin Peaks” and “Hooters” model with servers wearing revealing outfits, but that is it, Johnson said.
He also discussed Dolce’s hours, which he called “our niche.” The restaurant is open late, usually from 1 – 3 a.m., servicing those who work second and third shift and those who want a fun place to go after bars and clubs are closed.
The restaurant is known for its wings as well as its salmon and shrimp grits bowls.
“We know what we doin here,” Johnson said. “We pride ourselves on knowin’ what we’re doing.”
Johnson and Wilson both addressed the events at Lavish, expressing sadness for the victims and frustration and disdain for the club’s owners and management.
“I’m sorry for what happened next door, that hurt my feelings too,” Johnson said. “I know a lot of people over there because I been doing nightlife the last 15 years of my life.
“If I could control this, it wouldn’t have been a shooting over there,” he added. “If I had something to do with that it wouldn’t have been no incident over there. But I had nothing to do with it and my heart got hurt when I see everybody attacked.”
Moving forward, Johnson and Dolce owners have appealed the revocation of their license, Johnson said. They are also, he added, along with Wilson, working to set up a meeting with the Sheriff’s Office in order to discuss how to work together to ensure security and safety.
Lillia Callum-Penso covers food for The Greenville News. She can be reached at [email protected] or at 864-478-5872, or on Facebook at facebook.com/lillia.callumpenso.
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