Court decision greenlights Lexington restaurant and beer garden.

PositionSt. Stephen's Lutheran Church vs. Navy Yard on Main, South Carolina

Next spring is shaping up to be a memorable season for Gavin Smith.

Not only is Smith, one of three managing partners of a new restaurant and beer garden planned for downtown Lexington, getting married, he will finally see his vision for that project take shape.

Navy Yard on Main, with 11,000 square feet of outdoor space and 8,000 of indoor dining at 102 Main St., got the green light to ramp up construction on Tuesday, when the S.C. Administrative Law Court granted its application for a beer, wine, and liquor-by-the-drink license. The decision paved the way for the project, stalled since February because of the opposition of a nearby church, to move ahead.

"It has been a long process, but we are super grateful for the outcome yesterday, and we're looking forward to being a part of the Lexington community," Smith told the Columbia Regional Business Report on Wednesday.

Navy Yard on Main was originally slated to open in May 2021, but the project ground to a halt when St. Stephen's Lutheran Church filed a protest with the S.C. Department of Revenue, which issues alcohol licenses. The church raised concerns about noise, litter, parking and disruptive behavior, but Administrative Law Judge Shirley Robinson, who heard arguments on Dec. 3, ordered the permit be granted in a 15-page ruling.

South Carolina law mandates that businesses serving alcohol within city limits may not be located with 300 feet of a church, school or playground. Robinson ruled that Navy Yard's public entrance is 310 feet from St. Stephen's, located at 119 N. Church St., and that the church had failed to produce sufficient evidence to justify its concerns.

"We learned about the protest in February, but we didn't make it public until May as we tried to privately work it out," Smith said. "It was a complete surprise to us. The Lexington community has been so welcoming and so supportive of our project. To learn about the protest while we respect their position (and) their standing in the community we were very surprised to learn of their protest and unwillingness to work with us at all."

The property is the site of an automobile dealership which opened in 1918. Smith said site-specific work, such as painting and the replacing of water and sewer lines, has been ongoing since February, but work related to Navy Yard has been at a standstill.

"We've already talked with our contractor, and we've established good relationships with their subcontractors," Smith said. "They're all...

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