The charred remnants of Big D’s Bar-B-Que Barn on George Bishop Parkway came down Thursday as a demolition crew cleared the blackened remains of the 33-year-old building.
“It’s a sad day,” owner Russell Davis said. “I went there every day before it burned. … It was like losing a part of me. … It’s like the end of an era.”
Big D’s – known for its buffet, barbecue and fried chicken – had been a local favorite and fixture in the community for three decades until a fire – later deemed arson – gutted the popular restaurant about 2:30 a.m. Nov. 18. Davis said he isn’t planning to rebuild in that spot or open a new location in Myrtle Beach.
The other location – Big D’s BBQ Trough that opened about two and a half years ago – will continue to operate at 2917 Church St. in Conway.
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Davis has also filed a lawsuit against the man charged with burning the restaurant, aiming to recover the financial loss.
“I lost it all,” Davis said.
Christopher L. Bryant, 47, of Andrews has been charged with third-degree arson and burglary in connection to the fire. He is out on $300,000 bond and is awaiting trial, which is likely to occur in nine to 18 months.
If convicted, he faces up to 10 years on the arson charge and a maximum of 15 years on the burglary charge.
Davis said he doesn’t have the money to rebuild and had just enough insurance money to cover the loan on the property. He owns the lot and said he may get another business to operate there or sell it, but it was too soon to tell as the dust settled Thursday.
The demolition began about 8 a.m., and within an hour, the building had become big heaps of burnt rubble. The property was built by Davis and his father, John Davis – “Big D” – who died about 11 years ago.
“We had cousins and friends and family from our hometown in Hemingway come, and they came down here and we built this thing together. We built it as a family,” Davis said.
Davis also owns the property with his mother, Beverly “Marceline” Davis, whose name is also on the lawsuit against Bryant.
“It tore her up. ... She really felt like she lost Daddy all over again,” Davis said of his mother.
Davis said he had never seen Bryant before the life-changing blaze destroyed his business.
The night of the fire, an Horry County police officer spotted flames in the sky and called emergency crews.
Horry County police began investigating after fire authorities determined the blaze had suspicious origins.
The family filed the lawsuit Dec. 9 against Bryant seeking “both actual and punitive damages sustained as a result of such conversion, in an amount to be determined at trial,” according to court documents.
Bryant trespassed on Big D’s property and entered the building with a hatchet, then took personal property before pouring fire accelerant around the building and lighting a blaze that resulted in a total loss of the property, the complaint states.
Bryant denied those allegations in court documents.
“It’s premature to speculate on the outcome of the case,” Bryant’s attorney, Morgan Martin, said. “We are looking forward to a reasonable resolution on the matter.”
The suit is in the discovery phase, and a trial date has not been set to hear the case, which could be settled before it goes to trial.
An order was signed by Judge Steven John on Feb. 10 preventing Bryant, who owns a timber company, from “selling, mortgaging or any way encumbering any of his real and personal property” without written consent from Davis until the litigation is resolved, according to court documents.
“Russell and Kay will never get back all the memories and sentimental things they lost … We just want to get them as close as possible to what they lost [monetarily],” Russell Davis’ attorney, Dirk Derrick, said.
The Davis family has seen a wave of support at the Conway location since the fire burnt down the Myrtle Beach restaurant.
“We’re doing good here. I’m a blessed person,” Russell Davis said.
It will likely take a day or two for crews from Mike’s Landscaping, who are also long-time friends of the Davis family, to remove the rubble from the demolished building.
“I have a lot of memories of this place,” Mike Johnson Jr., a demolition crew member, said as he watched his father, Mike Johnson Sr., move the mouth of a machine crunching into the building, which housed many photos and mementos of “Big D” that were lost in the fire.