Fantails Gentleman’s Club was ordered to close last week, marking the seventh adult-themed business to close since 15th Circuit Solicitor Jimmy Richardson launched a sweep to clean up nuisances surrounding those businesses.
Master-In-Equity Cynthia Howe ordered the club shut after attorneys with The Battle Law Firm, who were hired by Richardson, argued the club was a nuisance.
“Part of it was under public nuisance in that police were constantly responding out there...,” Richardson said. “There were mentions of prostitution and drug sales... At the end of the day, she closed it for whatever reason.”
A phone call left for Chinlay Hok, a defendant listed in the ruling under Fantails, was not returned Monday. Russell Long, attorney for Fantails, could not be reached for comment.
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Police tape surrounded the business Monday afternoon.
By the time Richardson’s team got around to prosecuting Fantails, he said, it wasn’t run as a gentleman’s club where nudity was being allowed. He said owners had obliged to the county’s 2013 zoning and conduct ordinances. Zoning restricted adult-themed businesses to one of three zoned areas in the county – highway commercial, limited industrial and heavy industrial. It also forced the businesses to be at least 1,500 feet from certain structures, such as residential properties, churches and day cares.
A conduct ordinance, also approved by Horry County Council in 2013, prevents adult-themed businesses from being open between midnight and 6 a.m. The ordinance sets stricter rules for businesses with viewing booths and prevents nudity.
“They had asked them to do so much, which is above and beyond anything we had asked them to do,” Richardson said of the county’s new ordinances. “I was very direct with... those helping out that I did not want to hear reports about the stage being too high, pasties being too short. That never concerned me. It was never about shutting a strip club. It was, my words to them, ‘Is this full-blown prostitution?’ If it’s not prostitution, if it’s not drug sales, if it’s not public nuisance, then I’m not concerned.”
Richardson said most of the clubs understood where his office was coming from.
“But there were some that would say, ‘You’re trying to clean us up, mister no fun,’” Richardson said. “That was never the case of us coming in and saying the stage isn’t high enough or you’re dancing too close to the patrons. None of that went into any of this stuff.”
Richardson said his focus has always been public nuisance. He pointed to the closing of Levelz Bar & Grill, at 515 9th Avenue North in Myrtle Beach, as an example of closing a place for nuisance reasons and not for violations of ordinances. Levelz was ordered closed after a man was shot outside the bar in February.
Richardson admits he had not heard of Levelz until Myrtle Beach police let his office know the troubles they had there.
“With regard to that, the city of Myrtle Beach did know about it and they came to me and said, ‘Hey, we go out there every night. This is a terrible situation. We need some help in closing this club down,’” Richardson said. “And then there’s a report of what all is going on, how many calls they made and for the various stuff, then we look at it and see if it fits what we’re after.”
Fantails is the final of seven adult-themed clubs closed in recent years. The Gold Club re-branded itself to the Empire Night Club before a judge ruled it to be a nuisance. Other businesses closed during Richardson’s most recent sweep include Tiffany’s Cabaret, Teezers, The Bunny Ranch, Bottoms Up and Airport Express Video. Horry County also has worked in recent years to close Celebrations in the northern end of the county and Tequila Empire.
Richardson said his office does not have current plans to examine other businesses like Masters Gentleman’s Club, Chez Joey’s and Derriere in Myrtle Beach or Thee Doll House in Atlantic Beach. That is, he said, unless he hears they become a nuisance.
“It’s not any of our investigators going out and searching these clubs out,” Richardson said. “With regards to [other adult-themed clubs], if the city of Myrtle Beach needs help with those, they’ll reach out to us and we’ll look at those individually. They haven’t done so yet, so we’re not looking at any of those.”