Solicitor’s office going to court to close Myrtle Beach-area strip clubs

Solicitor Jimmy Richardson is seeking to shut down five adult-entertainment nightclubs in Horry County, a move one club owner said likely will backfire economically as this area’s tourism numbers continue to slump.

“It’s sad they are going to this extreme because business is down as a whole in all of Horry County and Myrtle Beach,” said Mike Rose, owner of The Gold Club on U.S. 501. Rose said the targeted nightclubs attract tourists, employ about 300 people and support other businesses such as golf courses and transportation services.

“A lot of people are going to be hurt by what I term abusive government,” Rose said.

In addition to The Gold Club, the solicitor’s office filed complaints against: Club Mansion, formerly known as Teezers; Bottoms Up; Tiffany’s Cabaret; and The Bunny Ranch.

Richardson, solicitor for the state’s 15th judicial circuit, last week filed separate civil complaints against each nightclub, asking a judge for a temporary injunction that would shut down the businesses until a full court hearing can be held. Richardson then would seek a permanent injunction, claiming the nightclubs are a public nuisance.

Richardson told The Sun News the complaints stem from requests his office received from the Horry County Police Department. The solicitor’s office has taken similar action over the years against other nightclubs where police have documented a pattern of unlawful behavior, such as drug activity, fighting and noise violations.

The latest complaints allege the five nightclubs have “the general reputation for prostitution, lewdness, assignation” and are “offensive to public decency, morals, peace and health.”

The legal action follows investigations into activities at the nightclubs by undercover police officers and private investigators, according to the complaints.

No court date has been scheduled. The Battle Law Firm in Conway is handling the civil actions for the solicitor’s office, which alleges the nightclubs violate S.C. nuisance laws.

Rose said he will fight the nuisance claims and expects other adult-oriented nightclubs will do the same.

In addition to closing the nightclubs, the solicitor’s office wants to seize all of the fixtures and removable property in the businesses so they can be sold to help pay the costs of enforcing the nuisance claims.

The court action follows Horry County Council’s move last year to enact stricter zoning ordinances to heavily regulate adult-oriented businesses. Richardson said the nuisance complaints are not related to the zoning laws.

Rose, however, said he thinks the nuisance complaints were filed because the zoning laws did not put the nightclubs out of business as many expected.

“The ordinance change was the county’s first plan,” he said. “It didn’t work, so this is another plan. I believe the county has always been looking for a way to shut these businesses down.”

Rose said targeting any business for closure during this area’s economic slump is a bad idea.

Accommodations and admissions tax collections in Horry County — two key indicators of this area’s tourism economy — were down by double digits in March compared to the same period a year ago, the latest numbers reported by the Myrtle Beach Area Chamber of Commerce.

Lodging occupancy for the Independence Day holiday, typically the biggest week of the tourism season, was down 4.9 percent from last year, according to the Brittain Center for Resort Tourism at Coastal Carolina University. That is the second consecutive annual decline for the July 4 week and comes on the heels of a 3.8 percent decline in occupancy for the six-week period leading up to this year’s holiday.

“This [court action] is bad for us and could cost a lot of people their jobs,” Rose said. “I’ve heard some businesses in Horry County and Myrtle Beach are off by 30 percent to 50 percent this year because tourists are going to other destinations. And yet, the county is targeting us with an all-out assault.”

Contact DAVID WREN at 626-0281 or via twitter at @David_Wren_