Hilton Head beach bar lawsuit resolved for now. Here’s what the resort wants from them

Coco’s on the Beach on Hilton Head Island on May 16, 2017.
Coco’s on the Beach on Hilton Head Island on May 16, 2017. The Island Packet

Editor’s Note: This article has been updated with information from a Wednesday morning statement from Hilton Head Resort.

A beloved beach bar on Hilton Head will remain open — for now.

Coco’s on the Beach, located on Singleton Beach east of Hilton Head Resort, is opening next week for the season, according to owner Larry Watkins.

After this year and next, though, Watkins said he’s not so sure.

“We’ve got a problem with the resort after 12 years,” Watkins said. “We’re pretty set for this year and next, but Coco’s might be going away after 14 years (in 2021). It’s pretty sad.”

The “problem” Watkins is facing with the resort? He’s not open enough.

“There were times when he was not open when we wanted him to be,” Hilton Head Resort general manager Yvonne Belcher- Jones said. “We want him to be open daily.”

In February, Hilton Head Resort — which owns Coco’s building — took Watkins to court to evict the business for not sticking to the hours outlined in the lease, according to court documents filed in the Beaufort County 14th Judicial Circuit index.

A jury trial was set for April 29, but the parties met for a settlement conference on Monday.

Hilton Head Resort board secretary Jim Fluker released a statement to The Island Packet Wednesday, where he said the suit has been temporarily resolved.

“On March 25, 2019, a settlement conference took place at which Mr. Watkins and Coco’s agreed to comply with all of our demands... including: payment of rent and expenses owed, operating at times and dates pursuant to the existing lease agreement, (and) ringing all sales through the cash register ...”

The settlement conference means that the parties are working it out, but a jury trial could still take place if Watkins does not comply to the terms set forth in the meeting, Fluker said.

CoCo's on the Beach.jpg
CoCo’s On The Beach, located at the Hilton Head Resort, is photographed on March 12, 2018. Jay Karr jkarr@islandpacket.com

What’s going on between Coco’s and Hilton Head Resort?

Coco’s renegotiated a three-year lease with Hilton Head Resort last year, securing the business’ spot on the mid-island beach until 2020.

Watkins said he doesn’t know why the resort filed to evict the beach bar two weeks ago, but he speculated on Tuesday.

“We think someone wants Coco’s,” Watkins said. “Hopefully they’re going to cancel that.”

The resort fired back against that claim on Wednesday, saying that the real reasons for litigation were because of his failure to maintain a regular operating schedule.

“I’ve decided I’m not going to fight them anymore,” Watkins said.

Although Belcher-Jones said the resort originally wanted Coco’s to open March 1, Fluker said Monday’s settlement conference determined that Watkins could open the bar on April 3.

Coco’s on The Beach is open during tourist season, tucked just off of Hilton Head’s Singleton Beach on the North End. Mandy Matney

As for now, Watkins said he’s optimistic about the upcoming season.

“We’ll be open. We’ll still survive,” he said.

Coco’s on the Beach 2019 hours

Watkins said he plans to open Coco’s on Monday, April 1 for the season.

He said the hours will be as follows (but are subject to change):

April: 11 a.m. until 6 p.m. or 7 p.m.

May: 11 a.m. until 8 p.m.

June, July and August: 11 a.m. until 10 p.m.

Katherine Kokal moved to South Carolina in 2018 after graduating from the University of Missouri and loves everything about the Lowcountry that isn’t a Palmetto Bug. She has won South Carolina Press Association awards for in-depth and government beat reporting. On the weekends, you can find Kati doing yoga and hiking Pinckney Island.