The city of Myrtle Beach is accused of allegedly using police intimidation, city code enforcement and scare tactics before forcing a bar in the Superblock to close its doors. Lawsuit filed. Another to be filed this month. Are the predatory tactics used by city leaders finally catching up with them?
When Tommy Brittain takes a case, the defendants should take note. The Brittain Law firm has a reputation for quietly winning high stakes legal settlements. Brittain knows how to play inside baseball, meaning that his cases can be settled out of court often with a large payout to his client. Such payouts keep those at fault from making headlines on news sites like MyrtleBeachSC.com.
This week, Brittain decided to take on the City of Myrtle Beach. The city is accused of allegedly using police intimidation, city code enforcement and scare tactics before forcing a bar in the Superblock to close its doors.
If all things go as Brittain expects, the city will likely write a substantial check to the Superblock property owner, require the owner to sign a non disclosure agreement, keep the details away from press scrutiny, and put the matter to rest. The property might also be purchased by the city as well, as part of the settlement. Brittain is hired for just such delicate matters as these.
The only real losers in a deal like this are the tax payers (who pay the lawsuit settlements) and other small business owners who continue to be harassed by city bureaucrats. City Manager John Pedersen simply goes on about his business as usual.
Myrtle Beach City Government continues what merchants describe as overly aggressive tactics while the city works on a largely secret, comprehensive overhaul of the downtown area.
MyrtleBeachSC news chronicled the hostile takeover of the Superblock as it happened beginning in 2016 and escalating in 2017.
Business owners, like Natalie Litsey, videoed here, explained how the City of Myrtle Beach harassed her and drove her out of business. Shots were fired along the street outside of the bar in this incident. The business was closed by the city and the building was later purchased by the city of Myrtle Beach. The property sits empty today.
Yet, when a city-favored, insider bar, called Riptydz had a shooting in the bar where an employee was murdered this Fall, the treatment from city leaders was extremely understanding and positive.
Downtown merchants, including Tuvia Wilkes, know the city’s tactics of picking winners and losers among business owners only too well. Certain Ocean Boulevard merchants are planning another lawsuit. An injunction against the city’s ban of selling legal products downtown is expected sometime later this month. The products can be sold anywhere downtown except in a district where the city has created a special overlay. The business owners in this district say, (like the Superblock), they have been harassed by the city ongoing as well.
113 Empty Store Fronts Abandoned In Downtown Myrtle Beach
Wilkes wrote the following to all of Myrtle Beach City Council just this week:
A local property owner is suing the city of Myrtle Beach for allegedly using police intimidation and scare tactics before forcing a bar in the Superblock to close its doors.
According to the lawsuit filed Wednesday, plaintiff James Brady has accused police of harassing the owner of the Pure Ultra Club and its customers.
Brady further alleges the city sabotaged his lease agreement with new tenants by not allowing them to open a planned game business.
In addition to the city, David Sebok, the Myrtle Beach Downtown Redevelopment Corporation and Metro Properties Gropu, LLC were all named as defendants in the suit.
According to court documents, Brady purchased two properties at 803 and 805 Main St., in Myrtle Beach in 2010. He then entered into an agreement with business associate Hector Melendez to oversee the remodeling of the properties and to run the bar.
“Inexplicably, directly from the start, Mr. Melendez was told to meet with the zoning director Bruce where his first response was, ‘We will do everything possible to never let you open a bar at that location,’” the lawsuit states.
Court documents allege harassment became weekly, “almost daily,” to hinder the completion of the work on the two properties. That included the approval of blueprints, only for city officials to come over, “make him rip out what was just approved and redo it again, laughing as they exited the building,” according to the suit.
When the work was finished, Melendez called for a final inspection. Two city officials came over and allegedly stated, “We said you would never open as a nightclub and now you have to put fire sprinklers everywhere in this building if you want to get a business license.”
The lawsuit states the sprinklers were installed at an additional expense of $68,000 and the club was opened. The first two-year lease, from June 2012 to June 2014, was executed successfully.
At that time, the Superblock area was zoned for bars and nightclubs and faced issues that other similarly-zoned areas dealt with. However, no nuisance claims were made against Pure Ultra because the city wasn’t interested in acquiring the property, according to court documents.
In 2014, Melendez signed a new 20-year lease with Brady to continue operating Pure Ultra in the property. The following year, he claimed the city took actions on the Superblock “with business license moratorium and a city nuisance order against that area.” Additionally, he alleged police intimidation and scare tactics to drive away business.
“Mr. Melendez could verify that he himself had not had to call the police for an incident since he opened in August 2014,” the lawsuit states. “The calls or incidents were not reported from his club, therefore no nuisance claim is viable.”
“Defendant Sebok then told Mr. Melendez he or the owner was going to start receiving offers to buy their building. In direct terms he stated, ‘If you do not sell your property it will be closed anyway or taken away by other means,’” the lawsuit states.
Sebok reportedly told Melendez to talk to Brady and “let him know this can be done peacefully or we can shut you down.”
According to the the lawsuit, Metro Properties solicited to purchase the property at 803 Main St., on Oct. 16, 2016.
On Oct. 29, 2016, Melendez contacted Brady and said he wasn’t feeling well due to stress from the city’s “unrelenting harassment, scare tactics, police intimidation, etc.” and he was going to the hospital. The plaintiff agreed to pick up supplies for a Halloween party at Pure Ultra and take them to the club.
According to court documents, Brady was “stunned by the police presence” when he got to the club. He alleges the officers were intimidating the customers, commenting on their clothing and asking if they were going to behave.
On Oct. 15, 2018, Brady entered into a new lease with two tenants who planned to open a game business featuring a virtual reality experience that would include the sale of beer and wine and prepackaged light food, court documents state.
The lawsuit alleges the city indicated “nothing would be allowed regardless of the nature of the business,” and Brady’s contract with the new tenants was canceled.
He is seeking an undetermined amount of damages.