The City of Myrtle Beach forced a downtown bar to close after using police to intimidate customers and treating the business like a nuisance, a lawsuit claims.
The suit, filed Wednesday by downtown property owner James Brady, alleges the city harassed customers at Pure Ultra Club until they revoked the club’s business license. They later denied a business license to interested tenants after the club closed.
The city cited nuisance claims as a reason to shut the club down, the suit states, despite the former operator not calling the police since he opened in 2014.
Now, Brady is asking for actual, consequential and special damages.
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The properties in questions are part of an area commonly known as the Superblock. It’s an area city officials have long talked about developing and purchased several properties in recent years.
Brady owns two Superblock properties — 803 and 805 Main Street, online records show. Before Brady bought the properties the buildings operated as a moving store, furniture store, wig shop and a check cashing store before the businesses shut down, leaving the buildings empty.
The vacant properties became full of homeless people, the suit reads, sleeping, building fires and exchanging drugs. According to the suit, the city didn’t issue any nuisance claims on the properties during this time.
Brady purchased the buildings in 2010 and entered into an agreement with business associate Hector Melendez to remodel the buildings, the suit says, turning them into Pure Ultra Club.
According to the suit, the city’s zoning director told Hector Melendez, who ran the bar on Brady’s property, “We will do everything possible to never let you open a bar at that location.”
Melendez still moved forward with the idea, drawing up plans with local architects, the suit reads, and had city officials review the plans.
After the review, the city harassed Melendez weekly, “almost daily, to hinder the construction and completion of the two properties,” the suit reads.
According to the lawsuit, officials would force workers to rip out recently completed work and redo it, “laughing as they exited the building; doing whatever they could to frustrate the process.”
After installing all new plumbing, electric and flooring, city officials performed a final inspection, saying, “We said you would never open as a nightclub here and now you have to put fire sprinklers everywhere in this building if you want to get a business license,” the suit reads.
Melendez got a quote from the fire department for $68,000 for sprinklers.
After installing the sprinklers, Melendez got a two-year lease, from 2012 to 2014, and no nuisance claims were made by the city, the suit states. At that time, the area was zoned for bars and night clubs and faced comparable issues to other parts of town with similar establishments.
The reason no nuisance claims were made during that time, the suit states, was because the city was not interested in acquiring the properties.
A 20-year lease was signed by Melendez in 2014, ending June 30, 2034.
In 2015, Melendez complained of police harassment, intimidation and scare tactics used to drive away business, the suit reads. Melendez did not call the police for an incident since he opened in 2014, the suit states.
“The calls or incidents were not reported from his club, therefore no nuisance claim is viable,” the suit reads, saying crime did happen in the Superblock area, like at the SkyWheel and Broadway at the Beach.
On Feb. 1, 2016, Melendez sent a letter to property owner Brady about the intimidation tactics from the city, the suit reads.
Melendez sent another letter to Brady on May 1, 2016, complaining of harassment from police, former Myrtle Beach Mayor John Rhodes and city officials. A final letter was sent on Aug. 1, 2016, complaining of police intimidation at Pure Ultra Club.
Around October 2016, David Sebok, former executive director of the Myrtle Beach Downtown Redevelopment Corporation, a nonprofit arm of the city, went to Melendez and said he and Brady would be receiving offers to buy the building, the suit says.
“If you do not sell your property it will be closed anyway or taken away by other means,” the suit claims Sebok said.
According to the suit, Sebok told Melendez to inform Brady of the offers, saying “this can be done peacefully or we can shut you down.”
Metro Properties solicited to purchase 803 Main St. on Oct. 13, 2016, the suit states.
On Oct. 29, 2016, Melendez contacted Brady saying he was not feeling well from the constant harassment, scare tactics and police intimidation from the city and was going to the hospital, the suit states.
Brady, who was in town for Melendez’s Halloween party, offered to drop off items for the event. When Brady arrived, he was shocked by the police presence, the suit states.
According to the lawsuit, between five and seven police officers were standing in front of the club, asking customers if they were going to behave, commenting on their clothes and asking where they were from.
Brady questioned what right police had to harass customers and run off his tenants, the suit reads. The officer allegedly “got in Brady’s face” and asked “who are you?” the suit reads.
After Brady said he owned the property, the police left, the suit states.
The lawsuit cites various news stories, indicating Superblock bar owners were being targeted and forced to shut down.
On Nov. 5, 2016, five people were injured in a shooting at Pure Ultra Club, The Sun News reported. On Nov. 28, the club’s business license was revoked, along with Natalia’s Bar and Grill, formerly located at 815 North Kings Highway.
In October 2017, Brady listed the properties for sale. Online records show Brady still owns the properties.
On Oct. 15, 2018, Brady entered into agreement for a new virtual reality gaming experience, the suit states. According to the suit, the city would not allow the use, “regardless of the nature of the business.”
Brady is suing the City of Myrtle Beach, Sebok, the DRC and Metro Properties on the grounds of civil conspiracy, tortuous interference of contract and breach of contract.
City spokesman Mark Kruea said officials do not comment on pending litigation.