Southbound Smokehouse owner opens up about raid

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AUGUSTA, Ga. (WJBF) – A local business owner is opening up after Richmond County law enforcement issued citations on his restaurant for underage drinking and operating a nightclub.

“They call it a raid, so I’ll call it a raid,” said Brian Brittingham, owner of Southbound Smokehouse and several other businesses.

He’s coming forward to NewsChannel 6 to share his side of the story about what happened Friday, June 11. We told you more than a week ago that Richmond County Sheriff’s Office Deputies ran an undercover vice operation at the business on Central Avenue after receiving complaints that staff was serving underage customers and turning the restaurant into a night club. Brittingham said he’s been a licensed restaurant for six years.

“We also follow the guidelines that are set to be a restaurant in that we sell more food in our annual sales than we do alcohol,” he said.

But Brittingham told us on that particular night, there was more liquor in hands. He said that’s out of his control.

“We’re in business to sell as much as everything as we can,” he told us adding that he wants to sell food and alcohol.

The other issue is underage drinking. NewsChannel 6 uncovered at the Richmond County courthouse that seven people under the age of 21 were cited for drinking alcohol at Southbound on June 11. But Brittingham said he pays deputies with Richmond County to work at his establishment.

He explained, “But their agreement will not check IDs.”

And since deputies don’t card customers, he said he paid a private person to do just that.

“Checking IDs that night was a certified person that, this guy carries a badge, he carries a gun and works for Warren County, I believe, so it’s not a Richmond County guy, but another deputy that’s actually in there,” Brittingham told us.

He added that he never gave permission to let people in without being carded. And the person he hired to check IDs actually joined in on the raid.

He also said he thinks some people may have used fake IDs to enter Southbound, something he believes can be purchased from China. He fired the manager on duty when the raid happened after allegations that someone snuck people in a side door. He said he’s a good businessman with a good personal and family record.

“I think I’m fifth generation businessperson in this town from my family and I don’t take that lightly,” he said. From what I know, we’ve always done stuff by the book.”

The Richmond County Sheriff’s Office was contacted to talk for this story, but declined due to it being an active criminal case that has yet to go to court for adjudication. However, the office released this statement:

“The Richmond County Sheriffs’ Office encourages the great citizens of Richmond County and outlying communities to enjoy the great restaurants/nightlife that Augusta has to offer.  The citizens, businesses and Richmond County Sheriff’s Office can work together to maintain a safe and secure business district that benefits everyone.  Sheriff Roundtree takes the citizen’s safety/security seriously and will continue such operations as necessary.”   

Brittingham told us he will go before the Augusta Commission next week on July 1 to discuss the citation.

Photographer: Gary Hipps


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