Empty restaurant building in Old Town Bluffton is subject of lawsuit filed this week

Building has sat empty next to Bluffton restaurant for nearly 2 years. Here’s why

Construction on the building next to The Dispensary that was going to house The Depot and Raw Bar was halted in 2016 from a stop-work order. Here's what it looks like now.
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Construction on the building next to The Dispensary that was going to house The Depot and Raw Bar was halted in 2016 from a stop-work order. Here's what it looks like now.

A failed Old Town Bluffton restaurant venture is the subject of a new lawsuit filed this week in Beaufort County Circuit Court.

The lawsuit was filed by The Dispensary LLC against the estate of William West, the former contractor for The Depot/Raw Bar restaurant that was supposed to open next to The Dispensary in February 2016.

West passed away in November.

In the suit, The Dispensary alleges West failed to fulfill his contract by not getting the buildings up to code.

“As a result of Defendant West’s negligent, careless and reckless construction on December 9, 2016, the Town of Bluffton issued a ‘stop work order’ for The Depot/Raw Bar project,” the lawsuit claims.

The Dispensary alleges that the restaurants were “improperly and inadequately constructed, and is incomplete, and substantial additional funding will be required to complete the project.”

Included in the lawsuit are allegations of improper construction, including items that don’t conform with plans and lack of ADA handicap access. “Numerous other changes or completion to mechanical components, electrical, plumbing, parking and floor plans will need to be made before a certificate of occupancy will be issued by the Town of Bluffton and before The Depot/Raw Bar can be opened to the public for business,” the lawsuit says.

The lawsuit claims that, to fully complete construction, an estimated $767,462 is needed and that delays in construction have cost the company more than $250,000 in income.

The lawsuit represents only one side of a legal argument.

An attempt to reach Shellie West Hodges, the representative of West’s estate, via Facebook was not successful. No response to the lawsuit had been filed as of Thursday afternoon, according to court records.

Attempts to reach Old Town Dispensary owners Matt and Carol Jording and their Columbia attorney, John Schmidt III, were also not successful Wednesday.

The Jordings were awarded sole ownership of The Dispensary and The Depot/Raw Bar by Beaufort County Judge Marvin Dukes in September after nearly two years of litigation with Bluffton developer Thomas Viljac, who then owned 20 percent of the restaurants, according to court records.

In the 2016 lawsuit, the Jordings accused Viljac of paying himself with money meant for construction. They also accused him of allowing creditors to rack up thousands of dollars in food and drinks at the Old Town Dispensary as a means of payment.

In response, Viljac, a former member of Bluffton’s Planning Commission and developer of Old Town’s Carson Cottages, claimed any financial problems with the company were caused by the Jordings, specifically with the cost of buying food, which he said increased “dramatically.” He added that the construction delays were caused by Matt Jording frequently asking for changes to the plans.

Dukes ordered Viljac to pay the Jordings nearly $200,000 for their unpaid wages, business distributions, the couple’s attorney fees and other expenses.

However, court records also show an email sent to Dukes from Viljac’s attorney, Marshall Horton, in October that indicated that the “parties appear to have reached an agreement.” Details of that agreement were not available in the court documents.

The case has since been disposed, court records say.