HORRY COUNTY, S.C. (WBTW) — A “hard-partying bar” on Highway 544 is accused of knowingly serving a former Coastal Carolina University football player too much alcohol before he hit and killed a man in a DUI crash in January 2020, according to a lawsuit filed Friday in the Court of Common Pleas for the 15th Judicial Circuit.
American Tavern, which was located in the 700 block of Highway 544 near campus, had a reputation for serving students — including those underage — excessive alcohol “with very little (if any) regulation or oversight by the bartenders,” according to the wrongful death lawsuit filed by the estate of Timothy Shulkcum.
The building is now the home to Crooked Floor Tavern.
The lawsuit claims Riley Patton, who was charged in the death of Shulkcum, of Myrtle Beach, showed up at the bar at about 10 p.m. Jan. 24, 2020 already “visibly drunk.” Patton and his friends allegedly had between 10 and 15 Vodka drinks and several shots of hard liquor over the next several hours.
The lawsuit claims Patton shouldn’t have been served any alcohol.
At 12:30 a.m. Jan. 25, 2020, Patton left the bar “in an extremely intoxicated state, walked past American Tavern’s ‘security’ guard or bouncer, and walked to his car” which was a few hundred feet away from the entrance and was easily visible to employees, according to the lawsuit.
Patton then drove his truck down Highway 544 where after a few miles, he crossed the center line and hit Shulkcum, who was in the median helping his sister who ran out of gas, according to the lawsuit. After the crash, Patton allegedly continued to drive away until he was later taken into custody by police at a nearby gas station.
The lawsuit claims Patton had a blood-alcohol concentration level of more than twice the legal limit.
The estate said American Tavern owed Shulkcum and the rest of the general public “duties of care to not allow its patrons to become intoxicated, not to serve alcohol to its intoxicated patrons, and to protect the general public, including Shulkcum, from the possible consequences of its patrons’ intoxication, to which it contributed.”
The lawsuit claims American Tavern broke South Carolina law by allowing Patton to be served alcohol. It claims the death of Shulkcum was the direct result of the actions of American Tavern.
The wrongful death lawsuit is also brought against Patton, stating he had a responsibility to safely operate his vehicle and failed to do so by driving drunk.
Shulkcum’s estate is seeking unspecified damages.
VBMLDL LLC, which is listed in the lawsuit as the company behind American Tavern, was dissolved on Sept. 16, 2020, according to online business records. A representative could not be reached for comment.
Patton was a player on the Coastal Carolina University football team in 2019, according to News13’s previous reporting.
Patton was initially charged with felony DUI involving death, but pleaded guilty in August 2021 to involuntary manslaughter, according to online court records.
Patton pleaded guilty under the Youthful Offender Act, according to Tonya Root with the 15th Circuit Solicitor’s Office. He was sentenced to five years in prison suspended upon serving three years probation and random drug and alcohol testing.