MYRTLE BEACH, SC (WMBF) – Several business owners in Myrtle Beach's Superblock area of downtown tell WMBF News that multiple property owners have been approached by a commercial real estate firm to sell their properties. An email obtained by WMBF News suggests that the city is involved in the purchase of these properties.
The co-owner of TomTom Studio and Gallery, who rents a space in the area, said the building she's in has been sold, and she's moving the business to 515 Broadway by the end of the month. She didn't know the details of that sale and the property owner couldn't be reached.
515 Ninth Avenue North is in the process of closing with a company called Metro Properties, but the building's co-owner said she doesn't know who is buying it.
The building started off as a grocery store after her father built it in 1946, co-owner Mel Divine Davis said.. The building housed various types of businesses over the years; most recently it was a club called Levelz. However, that club was shut down after a shooting happened outside of it.
Davis said it's been tough to get a new tenant since. She said she and her sister weren't trying to sell, they were only trying to rent it out.
However, she said they're now in the process of closing with a company called Metro Properties, but she hasn't been told who the principal people involved are, and she said it's all been secretive.
The Lovely Law Firm is staying put right now despite two letters that came to the office since the summer and an email from January 6 all from Scott Taylor with Metro Properties.
That email from Taylor said he represents a buyer interested in purchasing property near the pavilion and the law office may be of interest.
The email offered $215 thousand for the building at a rate of $65 per square foot.
While Justin Lovely said he would be interested in selling it, he thinks the building is worth more.
Natalia's Bar and Grill's business license was suspended in November. Owner Natalie Litsey had a hearing last Tuesday to appeal it, during which she admitted an email into evidence.
She said it recently showed up underneath her door at Natalia's Bar and Grill and she doesn't know who put it there.
The email appears to be from Councilman Wayne Gray to City Attorney Tom Ellenburg sent back at the beginning of November.
Gray talks about wanting to institute a 2 a.m. bar closing in the superblock, which has since passed.
He then asks if it hurts "legally and politically our move to acquire these properties?"
Litsey said she feels she has been targeted since she opened her business and false accusations are being used to take away her business license.
She said once she saw this email, she felt like everything makes sense.
Gray didn't return a call for comment and he wasn't at work or at home.
Other council members didn't return phone calls.
Mayor Rhodes said he didn't have a comment.
WMBF News sent a FOIA request for the email and the city spokesperson said this kind of email with the city attorney would usually not be discoverable due to attorney client privilege, but he said it went into the public realm when it was presented during Litsey's business hearing.
The neighborhood has been the location of several shootings and violent incidents in the last year, and the city council has since passed an ordinance requiring bars and clubs in the area to close at 2 a.m. One such incident occurred at the Pure Ultra Club on November 5, one day before the email was allegedly sent by Gray.
The city has announced a news conference for 12:30 p.m. Tuesday in Nance Plaza, but would not release further details about what the conference is about.