Five Points’ late-night debate continues, as new restaurant not allowed to serve past midnight

A new Asian restaurant in Five Points won’t be allowed to stay open past midnight after state Sen. Dick Harpootlian raised concerns about a history of underage drinking at the site where the restaurant will be.

Restaurateur Yu Sing Tam plans to open a new business at 724 Harden St. as an Asian restaurant called Chicken Boom and Luna Kitchen, serving food such as chicken lettuce wraps, Laksa noodles, fried rice and more, seven days a week, according to a menu included with Tam’s application to the city for a zoning exception.

Tam also plans to serve alcohol at the restaurant and had hoped to be allowed to serve until 2 a.m., but that would have required a special exception from the city.

The city’s Board of Zoning Appeals denied the request 4-1, after Harpootlian stood to address the board at a meeting Thursday.

The property at 724 Harden St. has housed a number of college-centric establishments over the years, most recently the Horseshoe bar, which closed in 2019. Perhaps most infamously, it was also the site of the former Jungle Jim’s bar, the last place Dail Dinwiddie was seen before her 1992 suspected kidnapping.

The property has been undergoing renovations since 2021, Tam told the board, but it is currently dilapidated, with a large hole in the Horseshoe’s old overhead sign where at least two pigeons have taken roost.

“I would not object if he was not going into a place that has a series of .... violations for serving underaged (patrons), (and) over-service,” Harpootlian said.

Harpootlian said the Horseshoe bar, which Tam did not run, was cited in 2018 and 2019 by the state Department of Revenue. But Tam did operate Jungle Jim’s bar, and that establishment had also been cited for serving underage patrons, according to a 2001 docket from the state Administrative Law Court, which The State previously reported on.

Harpootlian also questioned how many people would want to eat after midnight, but Tam said he believed late-night patrons would still want food options.

Tam added that he has already purchased an I.D. scanner.

“I will do my part to combat underage drinking,” he told the board.

The zoning board denied Tam’s request to stay open past midnight, but he will still be able to serve food and alcohol until 12 a.m.. The board also said that if Tam can run the business for one year without any violations then it will reconsider allowing him to stay open late.

The Horseshoe and other Five Points bars have been a point of contention for the neighborhood, the University of South Carolina and business owners for years.

The issues came to a head around 2019 when at least half a dozen bars closed or did not renew their alcohol licenses, in part because of prodding by Harpootlian and in part because of safety concerns from the university.