Superblock business owner to file suit against city of Myrtle Beach

Superblock business owner to file suit against city of Myrtle Beach

MYRTLE BEACH, SC (WMBF) - Days after Myrtle Beach officials announced a new library and children's museum will be built in the Superblock, a business owner said she plans to file a federal lawsuit against the city.

Natalie Litsey, owner of Natalia's Bar and Grill in the Superblock, is filing her suit following the recent revoking of her business license.

"I want our voices, I want the minority business owners to be heard," Litsey said. "I feel that the city of Myrtle Beach is taking advantage of us because they can"

Litsey said her business license was taken away unfairly and she also feels she has been discriminated against as a minority.

"What they're doing here to us small business minorities is wrong," she said.

Litsey, who opened her bar and grill along Nance Plaze in August 2015 following six months of searching and a $150,000 investment, is expecting other business owners from the same section of the Superblock to join the lawsuit.

"I was a sole owner," Litsey said. "I didn't have no help other than my family. My mom and dad and my aunt and my life savings, that's who helped me."

Litsey chose the location because of the area's close proximity to the beach. She said she had a vision of customers sitting both inside and outside, so they could take in the "beautiful view."

Initially, Litsey's plan was to stay open from 4 p.m. to 2 a.m. However, the bar was often empty bar, and she then followed the lead of other area establishments and kept her doors open later.

"My customers were service people who work in the hotels, in the restaurants that closed late, and they'd come here after they worked," Litsey said.

The longer hours meant a greater police presence. Litsey said law enforcement would run off her customers.

"I would've at least lost $300,000 in revenue just because of what they've done to make sure I wasn't going to be successful," she said.

Myrtle Beach Police Lt. Joey Crosby said police do proactive assignments called "keep checks" to make sure everything is peaceful and people feel safe in businesses with large crowds and a history of violence.

A shooting happened at Natalia's in July 2016. Litsey said she was out of town that night and things would have been handled differently if she had been there.

In November, her business license was suspended because police said her bar was a nuisance and the setting for illegal activity.

Litsey said she ran a safe business and false accusations were used against her. She is now questioning if she should have ever opened up in Five Points at all.

"If I had known that the city had other plans for this area, I would've went somewhere else," she said.

Myrtle Beach City Manager John Pedersen said the city could not tell potential businesses of the idea to buy properties.

"We weren't in a position to advise people, 'No you can't go there because the city is thinking about acquiring property,'" he said. "That's not something we were in the position to advise people because we had not made a final decision to do it."

Mayor John Rhodes said discussions have happened over the past two years about knocking the buildings in the Superblock down. City leaders said it wasn't until this past year the library and children's museum became part of the plan, and moves to buy the buildings began.

"That is a gamble you take on investments," he said. "You never know what is going to happen within the confines of any city limits through city government as to what they're going to do with certain locations. It just happens that this location needed to be revitalized."

Litsey thinks the city made the area look bad to bring down real estate prices.

"I felt like this area was already targeted for them to make it into something else," Litsey said. "This area was targeted to depreciate the value of the properties here."

Pedersen said revoking Litsey's business license didn't have to do with the project plans.

"We realize there will be people that will be skeptical about that," he said. "But those two things, the revocation of the business license had nothing to do with the acquisition of the property. Just straight up."

He said the business had fostered a reputation for the area.

"The action city council took yesterday, the interest has nothing to do with this," Pedersen said. "They revoked the business license because of the activities that had happened at that bar over time that had led to the unsavory reputation that that area had grown. This is one of those situations where time after time people in that area said, 'You, the city, need to do something to clean up the Superblock.' Well, guess what? We did it. We closed down some of those businesses that were causing us to have issues in the Superblock and we brought in something we think that is going to be very wholesome and people are going to build around."

Litsey said her goal with the lawsuit isn't to get money, but to show people what happened.

"My main concern is telling our story because the discrimination and the harassment that they did to the business owners (like) myself is wrong," she said.

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