Last call for local eateries|Southern Cheers and Cliff’s Seafood have called it quits

Published 2:56 am Thursday, November 5, 2009

Community Editor

Two popular eateries in the Washington area closed last weekend, with Southern Cheers taking its last call Friday night and Cliff’s Seafood closing its doors Saturday.
Southern Cheers was forced to close its doors after property owner Robin Moore refused to renew a lease with business owner John Smith before it expired Saturday.
When he took over ownership of Southern Cheers from his ex-wife on May 6, according to Smith, the business was behind on paying rent to Moore and his ex-wife left behind some $68,000 in debt.
Smith said the establishment had been doing good business since he took over. He said that it was the only restaurant/bar he’d ever been to, let alone owned, in which 80 percent of the customers purchased food before, after or while they were drinking alcoholic beverages.
“It’s the only bar I’ve been to all my life like that,” he said.
Moore’s attorney, Will Mayo, agreed that Southern Cheers was a good business.
“They just weren’t paying rent,” Mayo said.
On behalf of Moore, Mayo said, he decided to evict Southern Cheers and is close to filing a lawsuit against the business to collect past-due rent.
“It’s a simple case of nonpayment of rent. That’s all there is to it,” Mayo said.
Smith’s personal attorney, Leslie Fritscher with Ward &Smith, PA in Greenville, said she is waiting for any action filed by Mayo.
“I’m not sure what his client (Moore) plans to do,” she said.
Friday’s closing put about 25 employees, both part-time and full-time, out of work.
“The whole situation kind of sucks, but, oh, well,” said Tammy Everett, the establishment’s former manager.
The “situation” almost came to a head Saturday afternoon as Smith was removing items, including chairs, tables, frozen food and alcohol, from the now-vacant building.
Moore called the Washington Police Department, complaining that Smith was removing permanent fixtures from the building.
“Permanent items like toilets and sinks,” Lt. William Chrismon, spokesman for the department, said. Chrismon said that removing permanent fixtures from a property without the property owner’s consent is considered stealing.
The matter was resolved, but not before Smith took apart part of Southern Cheers’ wrap-around bar.
Smith said the same bar was serving distraught, upset customers the night before — some of them reduced to tears over the closing.
A note on a door at Southern Cheers on Monday afternoon acknowledged the establishment’s loyal patrons: “Due to circumstances beyond your control Southern Cheers is now closed. We would like to thank each and every one of our customers for their patronage over the years. We are sorry for this inconvenience. From all the staff at Southern Cheers.”
A similar note on the door of Cliff’s Seafood in Chocowinity read: “We are going out of business. Saturday, October 31, 2009 will be our last day of business. Thank you for your support, all Cliff’s Seafood staff.”
Attempts to reach the former owner of Cliff’s Seafood and the owner of the property for comment were unsuccessful.