According to Darby, their lease with building owner Michael O’Shaughnessy lapsed earlier in the spring, but Darby and Cagle weren't in a rush to renew it. “We thought that we had a good working relationship with the landlord, and there’s no denying that the Surf Bar is a successful business,” Darby says. “We initially had a one-year lease, and then we had a three-year lease. We just assumed that we’d get around to signing the next lease sometime soon.”
After hearing some chatter, Cagle contacted the building owner. Cagle was then told by O’Shaughnessy that he was not offering the owners a new lease. “We’ve always paid our rent on time, so there’s no dispute over money,” Darby says.
Darby believes the situation is still very much up in the air. They have no lease, but they have no deadline to vacate, either. “If the landlord came back to us and said, ‘I’ve had a change of heart’ and offered us another lease, I think we’d take it. Otherwise, we’ll probably leave sometime soon," he says. "I wish I could tell my staff, customers, and friends what’s going on, but I really don’t know right now. I’ve had people approaching me on the street and hugging me and even crying. You get all the good and bad emotions, the encouragement and a little bit of anger and all that. I think whatever good or bad falls out of this will fall out.”
O’Shaughnessy sent an e-mail to the City Paper on Monday. In it, he says that Darby has never spoken with the building owner about the lease renewal or discussed it with him in any form of communication. O’Shaughnessy also says that his e-mails to Cagle have not been returned.
Darby and Cagle have run the cozy, rustic tavern and restaurant at 103 East Cooper Ave. for four years. Situated a half-block off of Center Street, the Surf Bar has developed a loyal local clientele and established itself as one of the more popular non-touristy hangouts on the island. They serve a full menu of food, beer, and specialty cocktails, and they regularly book local and musical acts. Charleston groups Dangermuffin and Guilt Ridden Troubadour regularly play at the establishment.
Darby says that Dangermuffin’s unplugged side project AcousticMuffin is still solid for a performance at the venue on Sun. June 17, and Guilt Ridden Troubadour’s weekly Wednesday jam session is still on for next week.
Update: The Surf Bar is currently doing business on Folly Beach and is booking live music.