Two Grand Strand restaurants, one attraction close for good

The sign on Planet Hollywood is removed on Tuesday, the day after the local restaurant closed.
The sign on Planet Hollywood is removed on Tuesday, the day after the local restaurant closed.

Two iconic Grand Strand restaurants closed for good this week, and a popular tourist location locked up for the final time Monday.

Harold’s on the Ocean in North Myrtle Beach, Planet Hollywood in Myrtle Beach and MagiQuest at Broadway at the Beach all closed for business Monday. The closings come just after Labor Day weekend when thousands of tourists flock to the beach for one final summer hurrah.

35 number of years Harold’s on the Ocean was open

Harold’s on the Ocean, which originally opened as a private club in April 1980, closed for good Monday. The restaurant and bar provided the north strand with live music daily and a friendly face with every order.

“Everybody made you feel welcome and feel like family,” said long-time patron Elaine Hannon. “It’s like losing someone really, really close to you; the memory is there, but it’s not the same.”

Staff spent Tuesday clearing out equipment and furniture after celebrating the last week with a series of concerts. Past and present employees gathered to help tear down signs and pack up liquor bottles before the last day of the lease on Thursday. Justin Strickland, who worked at several of Harold Bessant’s restaurants over 10 years, said the closing didn’t feel real until Tuesday.

“I never thought I’d see this day. It’s just not going to be the same anymore,” Strickland said.

The staff were notified of the plan to close the eatery about two months ago, according to Jeff Hargett, former manager. The staff were never given a direct reason for the restaurant’s closing, Hargett said, but the lease was not renewed.

Jimmy and Cindy McDonald, owners of the building housing HOTO, could not be reached for comment Tuesday afternoon.

This was my second family – you couldn’t meet a better group of people.

Elaine Hannon, long-time patron of Harold’s on the Ocean

Bessant, co-owner of the iconic nightspot Fat Harold’s Beach Club and Harold’s on the Ocean, died in May. He had a lifetime lease on HOTO’s property, Hargett said.

Bessant, 82, died after a long period of declining health, Harold Worley, who co-founded the club with Bessant in the 1980s, said in May.

“There’s a lot of people mad and a lot of people who don’t understand why,” Hargett said. “Everyone just wants to know why.”

Derek Goodwin, a former employee from Baltimore who returned to help staff clean up, said HOTO’s closing was difficult to swallow. Bessant’s death coupled with the loss of the restaurant was challenging for all staff and long-time patrons – many who consider HOTOs like a family.

“Part of us died, man,” Goodwin said.

Even though the iconic restaurant will shutter its doors for good, staffers hope to reopen another Harold Bessant-themed restaurant soon.

“We’ll be back somewhere at some time,” Goodwin said. “We’ll return.”

Planet Hollywood, at the corner of U.S. 17 Bypass and 29th Avenue North in Myrtle Beach, closed Monday. The restaurant opened in November 1996 to a large crowd. Thousands attended a grand opening party in 1997 featuring celebrities such as Bruce Willis, Jennifer Love-Hewitt, Will Smith and others.

“After almost 19 years in the community, Planet Hollywood has opted not to renew the lease for its Myrtle Beach location, which remained operational through Labor Day weekend,” said Amy Sadowsky with Planet Hollywood International. “The company is pursuing other opportunities for the legendary franchise while focusing on the global development and expansion of Planet Hollywood Resorts International.”

35 number of years Harold’s on the Ocean was open

It’s unclear what might move into the Planet Hollywood building. Burroughs & Chapin Co. Inc., which owns the property, said Tuesday through its spokeswoman Lei Gainer that it “does not comment on contractual matters with its tenants.”

MagiQuest, which offers families a live-action role playing game, had curtained off its doors Tuesday and displayed several “closed” signs. The Broadway at the Beach attraction closed for business Monday, though officials couldn’t be reached to find out the reason for the closing.

MagiQuest allows players to embark on quests and adventures in an enchanted fantasy world using real magic wands to solve the mysteries of the game, according to the company’s website

The attraction opened in 2005 and also includes locations in New York, Tennessee, Japan and Illinois.

The Myrtle Beach location was the first to open.

Claire Byun: 626-0381, @Claire_TSN