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Hard Rock creditors cross fingers

During the summer, Lane's Professional Pest Elimination of Surfside Beach kept Hard Rock Park bug-free.

But when the park closed in September and filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection, the Surfside Beach exterminators ended up holding invoices of about $9,000 that might never be paid.

"They've been pretty good to deal with," Lorne Hanewich, general manager of Lane's, said of the park's representatives. "[But] that and a dime still don't get me a cup of coffee."

Lane's, like scores of other companies along the Grand Strand, are stuck with bills that range from as small as $21.19 to more than $100,000. Those businesses and individuals are known as unsecured creditors, which means they get paid only after banks, lawyers and others with liens on the property.

And that's only if there is any money left if the park is sold at auction, which is slated to begin Monday in New York.

"It all depends whether the property's worth more than the lien," said Henry Sommer, president of the National Association of Consumer Bankruptcy Attorneys.

The minimum bid for the rock 'n' roll theme park, which was said to be valued at $400 million, is $35 million, and starting bids are due Friday.

Park representatives could not be reached for comment through their attorneys.

Documents filed with a Delaware bankruptcy court have given a glimpse inside the park's finances, revealing a list of businesses such as Lane's that will be hoping for a high auction price.

For example, the documents list the cost of licensing software and using marquee names such as Led Zeppelin, The Moody Blues and Hard Rock at more than $10 million.

The looping rides, roller coasters and play areas are worth about $48 million, according to the park's accounting.

But what is not included is, perhaps, what people want to know most of all: How close was it to staying afloat?

"The thing you're not going to be able to get here is the ability to evaluate whether or not the park will succeed going forward with a new owner, which I suspect everybody in Myrtle Beach is ultimately concerned about," said Michael Dickey, an assistant professor at the Charleston School of Law.

The financial details of the park's daily operations are available to potential bidders, who must sign confidentiality agreements, according to the terms of the auction approved by a Delaware bankruptcy judge.

The park closed and filed for bankruptcy in September after being open for just over five months.

The park, which licenses the Hard Rock brand name from the cafe chain, was not able to reach its goal of 3 million visitors a year.

Companies that file for bankruptcy are required to file financial disclosure forms for two main reasons: to determine whether a reorganization plan will work; and to see whether any individual or business was paid improperly in the walk-up to the bankruptcy filing, Dickey said.

The documents also show major fees for attorneys and debt advisers, dating back to Aug. 4, and reveal that as of Nov. 30, 10 people were working for the park that once employed more than 2,000.

Those workers are three people in the finance department, two security supervisors, one in information technology, one in human resources and three in other park operations and merchandise.

Some companies that are owed money say they are hopeful that there will be something left at the end.

"We obviously remain optimistic and hope that we will [be paid,] but we've filed the appropriate paperwork for it to move forward, and it's in the court's hands," said Suzanne Hinde, general manager for the Sheraton Myrtle Beach Convention Center Hotel.

The park had booked almost the entire hotel for three days during its grand opening bash in June but did not pay the tab, listed as $60,000.

But others say they have tried to move on. Rock Star taxi, which had an arrangement with the park to be the on-call taxi company, was owed more than $2,300.

"We have zero hopes of getting that," manager Charlie Moore said.

Hanewich said there's nothing his pest control company can do but sit and wait for the outcome of the auction.

"We can't go back and repossess anything," he said. "What am I going to do, give 'em bugs?"

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