MYRTLE BEACH, SC (WMBF) – A local property owner is suing the city of Myrtle Beach for allegedly using police intimidation and scare tactics before forcing a bar in the Superblock to close its doors.
According to the lawsuit filed Wednesday, plaintiff James Brady has accused police of harassing the owner of the Pure Ultra Club and its customers.
Brady further alleges the city sabotaged his lease agreement with new tenants by not allowing them to open a planned game business.
In addition to the city, David Sebok, the Myrtle Beach Downtown Redevelopment Corporation and Metro Properties Gropu, LLC were all named as defendants in the suit.
According to court documents, Brady purchased two properties at 803 and 805 Main St., in Myrtle Beach in 2010. He then entered into an agreement with business associate Hector Melendez to oversee the remodeling of the properties and to run the bar.
“Inexplicably, directly from the start, Mr. Melendez was told to meet with the zoning director Bruce where his first response was, ‘We will do everything possible to never let you open a bar at that location,’” the lawsuit states.
Court documents allege harassment became weekly, “almost daily,” to hinder the completion of the work on the two properties. That included the approval of blueprints, only for city officials to come over, “make him rip out what was just approved and redo it again, laughing as they exited the building,” according to the suit.
When the work was finished, Melendez called for a final inspection. Two city officials came over and allegedly stated, “We said you would never open as a nightclub and now you have to put fire sprinklers everywhere in this building if you want to get a business license.”
The lawsuit states the sprinklers were installed at an additional expense of $68,000 and the club was opened. The first two-year lease, from June 2012 to June 2014, was executed successfully.
At that time, the Superblock area was zoned for bars and nightclubs and faced issues that other similarly-zoned areas dealt with. However, no nuisance claims were made against Pure Ultra because the city wasn’t interested in acquiring the property, according to court documents.
In 2014, Melendez signed a new 20-year lease with Brady to continue operating Pure Ultra in the property. The following year, he claimed the city took actions on the Superblock “with business license moratorium and a city nuisance order against that area.” Additionally, he alleged police intimidation and scare tactics to drive away business.
“Mr. Melendez could verify that he himself had not had to call the police for an incident since he opened in August 2014,” the lawsuit states. “The calls or incidents were not reported from his club, therefore no nuisance claim is viable.”
On Feb. 1, 2016, Brady received a letter from Melendez alleging intimidation from the city and retaliation. He received a second letter on May 1, and a third on Aug. 1, according to court documents.
Then, around September 2016, Melendez was reportedly approached by Sebok, the former executive director of the MBDRC, who pressured him to reveal who the owner of the property was.
“Defendant Sebok then told Mr. Melendez he or the owner was going to start receiving offers to buy their building. In direct terms he stated, ‘If you do not sell your property it will be closed anyway or taken away by other means,’” the lawsuit states.
Sebok reportedly told Melendez to talk to Brady and “let him know this can be done peacefully or we can shut you down.”
According to the the lawsuit, Metro Properties solicited to purchase the property at 803 Main St., on Oct. 16, 2016.
On Oct. 29, 2016, Melendez contacted Brady and said he wasn’t feeling well due to stress from the city’s “unrelenting harassment, scare tactics, police intimidation, etc.” and he was going to the hospital. The plaintiff agreed to pick up supplies for a Halloween party at Pure Ultra and take them to the club.
According to court documents, Brady was “stunned by the police presence” when he got to the club. He alleges the officers were intimidating the customers, commenting on their clothing and asking if they were going to behave.
When the plaintiff said he was the owner of the property, the officers reportedly left.
The lawsuit referenced a number of news reports about bars in the Superblock being shut down. In November 2016, several people were injured during a shooting outside of the Pure Ultra Club. Its business license was revoked shortly thereafter.
On Oct. 15, 2018, Brady entered into a new lease with two tenants who planned to open a game business featuring a virtual reality experience that would include the sale of beer and wine and prepackaged light food, court documents state.
The lawsuit alleges the city indicated “nothing would be allowed regardless of the nature of the business,” and Brady’s contract with the new tenants was canceled.
He is seeking an undetermined amount of damages.
Myrtle Beach spokesperson Mark Kruea said the city typically does not comment on pending litigation.
The full lawsuit can be read below: