Businessman opens up on involvement in Surfside Beach Pier bid

SURFSIDE BEACH, SC (WMBF) - The waiting game continues on in Surfside Beach, as a restaurant on the town-owned pier remains vacant, despite high hopes of having it occupied with a new tenant by the end of May.

Merely three weeks away from the start of high-tourism season in the seaside town, Surfside Beach officials say a lease agreement submitted to the town by a New Jersey couple on April 15 has yet to be inked.

Town officials say they are waiting on a Limited Liability Corporation to be formed that would financially support the new restaurant, expected to be managed by John and Sonia Sifonios, of Towaco, NJ.

Details on the parties involved in the development of the LLC have not been made public, and it's prompting a Surfside Beach businessman to reveal on Monday his role in the bidding process so far.

Bill Rempfer, a relative of John and Sonia Sifonios, told WMBF News on Monday that he has been a 'main negotiator' in the bidding process involving the New Jersey couple. While some question his involvement in the restaurant financially, Rempfer says he is not commenting on his involvement in the LLC that's expected to financially back the restaurant.

Rempfer originally pursued the pier space in an initial round of bidding in 2010. The local businessman says none of the original group members involved in that first round of bidding - including TV personality Cecil Chandler and former town administrator Ed Booth - are involved in the current proposal.

"The first $120,000 bid - it would have been turn-key and we would've been able to walk in there and have the building stripped," he said.

Rempfer says while the two partners are not involved, other individuals currently residing in Surfside Beach are involved in the business deal that has brought its fair share of controversy to the small town.

Those names are not expected to be disclosed until the LLC is completely formed.

"It has a lot of animosity built up against it," Rempfer admitted. "People talk about boycotting for some crazy reason. That building belongs to everyone in this town."

The lease, accepted by the Surfside Beach Town Council on April 15, is dated beginning April 1, 2011 with a $50,000 yearly rent for the first year, which is slated to be paid in 12 equal payments at the first of every month. The New Jersey owners must also pay one half percent of their gross sales to be paid in addition to the agreed upon rent. The five year lease is broken down according to year as follows:

  • 2011 - $50,000
  • 2012 - $50,000
  • 2013 - $55,000
  • 2014 - $60,000
  • 2015 - $60,000

If the lease is renewed for another five years, annual rent will be $70,000

The new tenants will update the vacant building with major renovations which are estimated to take six to eight weeks. The following details were outlined in the lease agreement concerning changes to the pier space:

  • Installation of new heating/air system ($14,000)
  • Installation of new electrical wiring ($20,000)
  • Installation of new plumbing ($11,000)
  • Installation of new hood system in kitchen ($19,000)
  • Repairs to roof ($6,000)
  • Installation of new flooring ($5,000)
  • Paint and wall repairs with new sheet rock ($14,000)
  • Re-do on all kitchen walls ($9,000)
  • Installation of gas lines ($4,000)
  • Installation of alarm system ($4,000)
  • Misc. labor ($29,000)
  • Tenant will also install new kitchen equipment (including, but not limited to cooler, freezer, stainless steel ovens, grills, sinks, dishwashers, prep tables, décor, silverware, plates, etc)

Rempfer hopes an LLC to back the restaurant agreement will be formed by the end of this week or the beginning of next week. When asked how long it will take for the restaurant to be gutted and re-opened for business, Rempfer responded by saying an estimated two to three months.

"This is strictly a business deal," Rempfer told WMBF News on Monday. "It's nothing else. It doesn't have to do with personalities - nothing about who I am or who they area. It's just a business deal. They're leasing the space and I want to use the space."

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