A judge’s decision could soon put an end to one of the lawsuits pending over the Surfside Beach Pier restaurant space.
Mike Battle, attorney for the town, requested a judge make a summary judgment to dismiss a breach of contract suit filed by John and Sonia Sifonios of Towacco, N.J., who were conditionally awarded a lease for the restaurant in 2011. The space has since been leased to a different tenant and has been open since July 2012.
Judge Paul Burch told Battle and Sifonios’ attorney Robert Gwinn to provide documents explaining each side’s position within the next 15 days. A decision on the summary judgment will follow after Burch reviews the documents.
Battle argued the lease agreement was never signed by the town and there was never a contract to be breached.
“It expressly states in the contract that it is not effective until it is signed by both parties,” he said. “It’s not enforceable unless it’s signed.”
The town on April 15, 2011 authorized Jim Duckett, who was town administrator at the time, to sign the lease if the couple passed background and credit checks.
“They say the administrator was satisfied and should’ve signed the lease,” Battle said. “The administrator said, ‘No, I wasn’t,’ went back to council and the lease was never signed.”
Gwinn argued that the minutes from that April 15 meeting at which Duckett was directed to sign the lease if the conditions are met is “sufficient signing for the purposes of the lease agreement,” even though the contract was never signed by the town.
Sifonios, in the suit, seeks to have his lease validated and damages for prospective profits.
A second suit over the space filed by a former tenant is also still pending in a S.C. District Court.
Nibils, owned by Jack Cahill, operated in the pier restaurant space from April 1988 to Dec. 31, 2010, filed suit last December.
The town, under the insistence of then-Town Administrator Ed 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.