Nibils owners file suit over Surfside Beach Pier restaurant space

akelley@thesunnews.comJanuary 2, 2013 

— Nibils is back in the fight over the Surfside Beach Pier restaurant space about two years after the eatery left town and opened shop in Myrtle Beach.

The owners of Nibils filed suit against the town of Surfside Beach, former Town Administrator Ed Booth, Bill Rempfer and Cecil Chandler, asking for actual and consequential damages relating to the loss of business and exemplary or punitive damages for misconduct by the defendants.

In the suit, Nibils owner Jack Cahill, says Booth, with Rempfer and Chandler, conspired against Nibils in an attempt to run a restaurant on the pier himself. Cahill, in the lawsuit, said Booth commented multiple times on how he could operate the restaurant and once told Cahill, “I’ve seen your tax statements and I know what you’re making and I’m going to run this restaurant one day.”

It’s not clear if the Nibils management lost money after the move, or how much may have been lost.

Cahill deferred comment to his lawyer John Leiter.

“The best way for me to put that is that they [the Cahill’s] believe the Surfside Beach Pier location was ideal for them because of the long standing reputation and name recognition,” Leiter said. “So yes, it was hard to move for any number of reasons, but financially it was hard to move.”

Booth, Rempfer and Chandler could not be reached for comment.

The timing of the suit filed last week, Leiter said, is based on facts learned since Nibils left its long established Surfside Beach location and opened shop in Myrtle Beach in 2010.

“Needless to say that sometimes you don’t know all the facts in the beginning,” he said. “Sometimes you don’t know the extent of the damage in the beginning. I don’t think there’s a right or wrong time to file suit as long as it’s within the statute of limitations.”

Nibils operated in the pier restaurant space from April 1988 to Dec. 31 2010, and worked for the majority of its 23 years with a private, individual owners of the pier until the town bought it in 2008.

The town, under the insistence of Booth, placed the space out for bid as the Nibils contract neared expiration. The suit alleges the bid process wasn’t necessary because the state Consolidated Procurement Code excludes municipalities from that requirement and the town’s ordinance applies only to the spending of public funds.

The town tried three times to bid the space, each time failing to award a bidder.

The suit says that Surfside Beach, through Booth, targeted Nibils for personal gain causing the restaurant to lose business and goodwill created over 23 years and expected future profit.

While many allegations against Surfside Beach in the suit appear stem from Booth’s actions as detailed in filing, Leiter said that’s only part of the reason why the town is included as a defendant.

“Certainly they had duties and responsibilities that were not totally dependent on [Booth],” he said. “The other way to put it is that Ed Booth was working for the town when most of this was transpiring and we believe that makes the town responsible.”

Leiter said the defendants have 30 days from their service to respond to the suit then it will enter a discovery process which can take a while.

Another suit over the restaurant space remains pending. John and Sonia Sifonios filed a breach of contract suit after Surfside Beach backed out of a conditionally awarded lease agreement when the town said the Sifonios’ didn’t meet the conditions. Rempfer also is involved in that suit. Related by marriage to the Sifonios’, he was a silent financial partner until the day the deal was terminated.

The Surf Diner has been open in the pier restaurant space since July 2012.

Contact AMANDA KELLEY at 626-0381.

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