MYRTLE BEACH, S.C. (WBTW) — The fate of Donny’s Saloon is now in Myrtle Beach City Council’s hands.
The City recently revoked the bar’s business license after a deadly shooting in March following what City leaders say was a pattern of illegal activity. The bar’s owner appealed that decision and presented its argument Thursday.
Jas’sier Wilson of Surfside Beach died as a result of his injuries in the March 25 shooting. Since then, two people were charged with his murder.
Myrtle Beach Police allege that employees of Donny’s Saloon cleaned up shell casings and blood before officers arrived. Four people were arrested and charged with obstruction of justice.
MBPD also says no one inside the bar called 911 after the shooting. After examining the 911 call center logs, investigators say the lone call came from a neighbor.
Daniella Digiorgi owns Donny’s Saloon and says she took it over just seven months before the pandemic. Today she told council, her goal was to bring in a different crowd of customers, change the bar’s name and turn it into a beach bar atmosphere; all things she says Coronavirus put a halt to.
Digiorgi denies she had anything to do with her employee’s cleaning up the scene and faces no charges in this case.
That is not in my benefit at all,” she said. “Having them clean up the scene would not benefit me in any way.”
Myrtle Beach Police investigators disagree. For the first time publicly, MBPD investigators said Thursday a former employee, who turned himself into law enforcement, told them Digiorgi instructed employees to clean up the scene.
“From what he was telling us, Daniella told him to go ahead and clean up the shell casings and the blood,” Officer Stephanie Parren who works in the regulatory unit at the police department said.
Investigators said they have executed a search warrant of all employee’s phones, but have not finished going through that evidence.
Jeremy Roof works in financial services for the City of Myrtle Beach and handles business licenses. He claims there is sufficient nuisance activity to justify revoking Donny’s Saloon’s business license.
“I firmly believe it is in the best interest of the City of Myrtle Beach,” Roof said.
Roof read statements from Donny’s neighboring businesses. One business owner detailed having to clean drug needles from his parking lot that were from Donny’s customers.
Digiorgi’s attorney argued that several Myrtle Beach businesses have experienced multiple shootings and remain open.
Officer Parren says she had a few conversations with Digiorgi about changes that should be made to make the business safer, prior to the March 25 shooting.
Digiorgi says she consulted with a security expert who worked pro-bono to give her advice on what she should do to protect the bar and its customers.
They decided to change the business hours, work to regulate what security officers at the front doors do, implemented pat downs and changed what type of music was played.
The security expert says he believes the shooting happened because of a breach at the door. He says after reviewing the surveillance video, he could tell a proper pat down wasn’t executed on the suspect.
Digiorgi says she has access to the surveillance video from home and was getting ready to go into the bar when she saw what appeared to be people wrestling. She later learned this is when the shooting incident was taking place.
Digiorgi believes this particular shooting could have happened anywhere and says the issue isn’t her bar, it’s 3rd Avenue.
After hearing each side, Council will now deliberate. Both sides have to submit documentation by June 15 ahead of the final decision on June 22.
If Council votes to revoke the license permanently, that decision would then need to be appealed to a circuit court.