Surfside Beach, SC - SURFSIDE BEACH, SC (WMBF) - Officials in Surfside Beach have announced Tuesday evening the bidding process for a restaurant on the town-owned pier will start over from scratch.
The decision came in front of a packed Surfside Beach Town Council meeting, filled with residents eager to learn the fate of the pier's current tenant, Nibils Restaurant.
Two bids have been submitted for the restaurant, including one from the current restaurant owners who have occupied the space for more than 20 years. A second bidder, who until Tuesday night has remained anonymous, has been identified as Cecil LLC.
According to the bid from Cecil LLC, the current restaurant would be re-named as Surfside Cafe at the Pier.
"With [the restaurant space] being city property, it has to be put up for bids," Cecil Chandler of Cecil LLC said. "We saw this as an opportunity for me and other investors to bid. This is America, and we've decided to do this. Everyone has an opportunity to bid."
While Chandler did not reveal the line-up of his fellow investors behind the bid Tuesday night, he did however confirm all are Surfside Beach residents.
For many longtime Nibils customers, the news that bidding was opened by the town came as a shock.
"We get up in the mornings and it's like, 'We're ready to go to Nibils,'" said Judy Cook, who has been going to Nibils for years along with her husband. "'Where are we going for breakfast?' It's Nibils."
Cook says a meal at Nibils has become a rite of passage for her family, a place to bring her grandchildren. To think they might not be able to enjoy their breakfast by the sea is almost offensive to her.
"This is something that has always been here," she said. "It's a landmark, and I just can't imagine another name being on the front of the building."
Margaret Cahill's family has been cooking up three meals a day in Surfside Beach for more than 20 years. She says the town could have handled the bid process differently.
"I really was in shock to think that they were going to do that, but nothing surprised me," she said. "I don't think they really had to do this. I think they had a different agenda, or some folks in the town did."
But town leaders say with the lease on Nibils coming up in December, they had no choice.
"It's absolutely not a personal thing, and I wish people wouldn't think it was a personal thing," said Town Councilman Bob Childs. "We have to by law do what we're doing."
Childs says it is council's job to try and make the decision that will best benefit Surfside Beach residents.
As it stands, Jack Cahill says the terms of the proposed lease from the town are markedly different than his current lease.
"The present lease I had was 18 pages," Cahill explained. "This lease they have is 70 pages."
Cahill says some of the details of the lease concern him as a business owner.
"They want to stay open twelve months a year which is not feasible. We've been here 23 years. December [and] January just don't work. And then they want to fine you if you don't stay open," he said.
Cahill says while they are willing to negotiate the terms of the lease, he is not willing to sign the town's lease as it stands. He says he requested response to some questions pertaining to the lease from the town, but say to date he has not received an answer.
The town's interim administrator said the bid packet is available online by clicking here.
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