July 23, 2014

Enforcement continues on adult businesses in Horry County, one club re-branding at end of July

A gentleman’s club owner in Horry County said he is re-branding his business at the end of the month and “getting out of the way” of county officials driven to close adult-oriented businesses.

A gentleman’s club owner in Horry County said he is re-branding his business at the end of the month and “getting out of the way” of county officials driven to close adult-oriented businesses.

Mike Rose, an owner of The Gold Club, announced that the club will no longer feature partially dressed dancers after July 31, and said the change mostly has to do with the county’s crackdown on adult-oriented businesses.

“The nuisance portion is the biggest reason,” Rose said of the county’s 2013 ordinance. “The county is just playing dirty and they’re putting investigators in that are overstating facts and, in some cases, facts are mixed up between different clubs. I just made a business decision that since they’re putting an all-out assault on all the clubs that it would be better to let my case roll through federal court and district court without any kind of nuisance problem underneath it.”

Jimmy Richardson, solicitor for the 15th Circuit, said he has not sat down and talked with investigators yet, so he is not aware of overstated facts or mixed reports.

“I don’t know of any mix ups or anything like that, however if we were to go to court, it would be subject to cross examination,” Richardson said. “It’s very new. It’s not a criminal case, and I have not sat down and talked with all the investigators in depth.”

Though it does not officially close until July 31, The Gold Club will have a farewell party Sunday. The club has been open for 10 years, Rose said.

“We just decided to kill it and get rid of all the entertainment in there, which would undoubtedly abate the nuisance that they are alleging is going on to protect the property and protect the 10 years of business that I had there,” Rose said. “We just want everything to go through that channel and not get mixed up in the nonsense that’s going on right now with the nuisance that the county is pulling on these clubs.”

It will re-open Aug. 1 as the Empire Nightclub and feature a brand new dance floor, private VIP tables, and a full game room.

Lt. Robert Kegler of the Horry County Police Department did not comment on Rose’s accusations and referred all questions to the Solicitor’s Office.

Richardson said the Battle Law Firm handles the county’s nuisance ordinance violations. Attorney Mike Battle could not be reached Wednesday.

Last year, Horry County Council changed its zoning ordinance to restrict adult-themed businesses to one of three zoned areas in the county – highway commercial, limited industrial and heavy industrial. It also forced the businesses to be at least 1,500 feet from certain structures, such as residential properties, churches and day cares.

A conduct ordinance, also approved by Horry County Council last year, prevents adult-themed businesses from being open between midnight and 6 a.m. The ordinance sets stricter rules for businesses with viewing booths and prevents nudity.

Richardson has made his battle to clean up adult businesses, and adult bookstores like Airport Express, public this year after receiving complaints from the Horry County Police Department and members of the public about reports of lewdness in certain businesses.

In June, Richardson filed a petition for temporary injunction against Airport Express Video, its parent company K&T Holdings LLC and owner Kelvin Lewis claiming lewd behavior occurs at the adult bookstore and it should close down temporarily until a judge can hear the case.

A Jan. 5 alternative dispute resolution hearing, or mediation hearing, has been set in the Airport Express Video case.

“This is one of many,” Richardson said. “We’re just going on the nuisance statute that’s more of preponderance of the evidence instead of trying to lock somebody up.”

Earlier this month, Richardson filed complaints against The Gold Club; Club Mansion, formerly known as Teezers; Bottoms Up; Tiffany’s Cabaret; and The Bunny Ranch. He filed separate civil complaints against each nightclub, asking a judge for a temporary injunction that would shut down the businesses until a full court hearing can be held. Richardson then would seek a permanent injunction, claiming the nightclubs are a public nuisance.

Other area cities also are cracking down on adult-oriented clubs.

In January, the Myrtle Beach City Council issued a moratorium on issuing business licenses to sexually oriented businesses while the planning department researched its ordinance regulating those establishments. The city has since lifted the moratorium after making minor changes to the ordinance.

On Monday, the North Myrtle Beach City Council approved an ordinance to regulate adult entertainment establishments “in order to promote the health, safety and general welfare of the citizens of North Myrtle Beach and to establish reasonable and uniform regulations to prevent negative secondary effects of [those businesses] within the city,” according to a press release issued by the city.

Currently, there aren’t any gentleman’s clubs in North Myrtle Beach.

Pat Dowling, spokesman for North Myrtle Beach, said the ordinance mirrors one adopted by Horry County last year.

“Horry County passed a really good adult entertainment establishment ordinance, which essentially covers what takes place inside a venue like that,” Dowling said. “We thought that would be good to add to ours. It’s a really well-written ordinance. We pretty much copied it and made it ours and added it to our adult entertainment ordinance.”

Dowling said there have not been any applications for adult-oriented businesses.

“One day, someone may come knocking and if they do, what this ordinance really does is it lets them know what the rules are and what to expect so we don’t have any arguments,” Dowling said.

As for Rose, he said he hopes to one day re-open The Gold Club and open The Gold Club North in the former Thee Dollhouse location, but on the grounds supported by his federal lawsuit.

“If it was them just coming after me, it would probably be worth the fight to fight the nuisance,” Rose said. “But the fact that they’re coming after all five clubs, they’re not going to quit. Their intent from the beginning was to shut all these clubs down. They’re on a mission and I’m just getting out of the way.”

“We’re just going to hold out until the outcome of that suit, which can take a year or two... Hopefully everything comes out on top and we’ll be able to open up both locations again.”

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