Once-potential tenant sues Surfside Beach over pier space

Nibils used to occupy the restaurant space on the pier before moving to a location in Myrtle Beach.
Nibils used to occupy the restaurant space on the pier before moving to a location in Myrtle Beach.

SURFSIDE BEACH, SC (WMBF) – The man the Town of Surfside Beach recently awarded and then denied the restaurant space along Surfside Pier has filed a lawsuit against the town, citing breach of contract.

John Sifonios, of New Jersey, filed the lawsuit in the Horry County Court of Common Pleas on July 1. Surfside Beach businessman Bill Rempfer and Gary Sedlack, two financial backers supporting Sifonios' business venture, were also named in the lawsuit against the town.

In February, Sifonios submitted a letter of intent to Surfside Beach, in hopes of occupying a restaurant space on the town-owned pier that was left vacant in 2010 by Nibils restaurant. In March, the Surfside Beach Town Council accepted the letter of intent, and asked Sifonios to draw up a tentative lease agreement.

That lease agreement was written, and on April 15, Sifonios alleges members of the Surfside Beach Town Council authorized the town administrator to enter into the lease agreement pending a credit and background check.

Sifonios signed a tentative agreement, and before the town signed the agreement, it was discovered Sifonios had filed for bankruptcy in New Jersey.

"At a regular council meeting held on May 10, the Town of Surfside Beach wrongfully rescinded the action taken at its April 15 meeting," the lawsuit alleged.

Sifonios' lawsuit is now asking a judge to rule the April 15 agreement valid and binding, and wants the court to grant an injunction that would keep Surfside Beach from "transferring, leasing, encumbering or hypothecating" the property before legal matters are settled.

Other legal costs are demanded in the suit, but another requested injunction could make the Surfside Beach Town Council direct Town Administrator Jim Duckett to enter into a lease agreement with Sifonios and his financial backers.

While Mayor Allen Deaton would not comment on the pending lawsuits, he did say it's likely taxpayers will be footing the bill for any legal fees the town now has to pay as a result of the lawsuit.

"We've diminished those revenue streams in the Enterprise Fund to the point where it's going to be a burden on the taxpayers," Deaton told WMBF News on Tuesday. "But when it comes to private enterprise, I don't believe we should be involved."

Sifonios is being represented by Robert H. Gwin, III of Gwin Law Offices in Myrtle Beach.

Sifonios has requested a non-jury mediation in the lawsuit.

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