A Saturday night shooting has rocked nightclubs in downtown Myrtle Beach and left City Council grappling with how to make the area safer.
Ronald Ronda, manager of Pure Ultra Club at 803 Main Street, said that the cameras in his nightclub caught a shooter as he entered the establishment and was frisked around 11:30 p.m. Bouncers found nothing, and the man immediately went to the bathroom.
But three hours later, the same man, since identified by police as Cleavon Oneal Dantzler, 33, began shooting at someone inside the club, running after his target and injuring five people in all. Ronda suspected the shooter was hiding the weapon in his “private parts” to get it past the club’s security.
“It was horrible,” Ronda said. “I see these people that got shot on the floor, blood everywhere, it was like kind of tense, you know? Thank God everybody made it.”
The superblock, which is bounded by U.S. 501, Broadway Street, 9th Avenue North, Kings Highway and Main Street, is the site of the shooting in Pure Ultra Club and several other high-profile violent crimes. Multiple incidents involving guns include one in February 2015 that left a man dead and another last month when police heard reports of shots and found bullet casings, but a witness was not willing to talk about the incident.
On Tuesday, Myrtle Beach City Council will consider an emergency ordinance to close bars and clubs in the superblock at 2 a.m. The ordinance, which only requires one approval before it goes into effect, automatically lapses in 61 days.
Ronda said he was would change his opening hours if he had to, but that he makes more money in later hours as tourists filter to his club from Broadway at the Beach.
“From 2 a.m. to 4 a.m., we make a lot more money than from 9 p.m. to 2 a.m.,” he said.
Club There doesn’t open until 1:30 a.m., and stays open as late as 6 a.m. in peak season, owner Victor Tataru said. He said he employs State Law Enforcement Division-certified security, and his business should not be punished because of incidents at other bars.
“We had absolutely no problems,” Tataru said. “Because of sorry to say, like, idiots, that’re still running businesses, now my business has to suffer because I’m falling under the same blanket, and I don’t understand why.”
Natalie Litsey, of Natalia’s Bar and Grill, said she understands the issue with rising crime, but that moves to shorten business operating hours and restrict parking, as the city did immediately after the shooting, were just aimed at shutting bars and clubs down.
“They [the city] took the opportunity that presented itself and said, ‘Let’s just close the parking lot,’” she said.
City Manager John Pedersen made the decision to ban parking in the superblock from 2 a.m. to 6 a.m., which he said was motivated only by the shooting and was the quickest action he was able to take to curb activity in the area.
But Litsey said it’s possible that inebriated bar customers would begin to drive rather than leaving their cars in nearby parking, for fear of receiving a ticket.
Pedersen said the city will explore ways to avoid that situation, in addition to possibly giving special parking stickers to residents and employees in the superblock.
Mayor John Rhodes said he’s in favor of both continuing Pedersen’s parking decision and the 2 a.m. ordinance.
“We have to eliminate some of these problems,” Rhodes said. “You’re not gonna eliminate all of them, there’s no question about that, but you have to take steps, and hopefully they’re steps in the right direction.”
Councilman Randal Wallace has previously told The Sun News that service workers who work late shifts should be able to enjoy nightlife afterward. But on Monday evening, he said he was completely in favor of the emergency ordinance.
“My family was in the bar business, and if you run those things right, you don’t have situations like this,” Wallace said. “Every now and again you may have a fight or something, but shooting after shooting after shooting doesn’t go on.”
He also said he will suggest that the city add more lighting to the superblock “so it looks like daylight out there,” to make the area safer.