Employees, IRS looking for owner Tony Bennett
By Becky Billingsley
Tuesday, December 8, 2009, Myrtle Beach - Signs they’re closed have been up for a few days at all three Myrtle Beach locations of Jimmy’s Japanese Hibachi. The phones are not being answered, and employees have not heard from owner Tony Bennett regarding when they might reopen.
A former employee of the Jimmy’s at 1225 38th Avenue N., who did not wish to be identified, said she was told at 4 p.m. on Dec. 3 to close the restaurant and that she would be notified when to come back to work. But she hasn’t heard from management, and now she is looking for another job.
At the 38th Avenue location, a sign written in black marker on copy paper taped in the window says, “Closed for Repairs,” and a yellow cone indicating a wet floor is near the front door. Nothing else seems out of place, and a fish still swims in an aquarium near the cash register.
The owner of another business near the 38th Avenue Jimmy's, who also does not want to be identified, said a man who said he was from the Internal Revenue Service and showed the business owner an official-looking badge, stopped by on Monday asking about the whereabouts of the owner of Jimmy’s.
But the employees and the business owner don’t know where owner Tony Bennett is.
At the Jimmy’s Japanese Hibachi in Surfside Commons, the hand-written sign reads, “Sorry Jimmy’s will be closed for renovations today.” A ladder is near the front window. Business owners near that location say it has been closed at least “a few days.”
The third Myrtle Beach location, on Renee Drive in Carolina Forest, has a similar sign in the window that says, “Closed for repairs,” but there is no evidence of activity.
Jimmy's was popular
It was in 2002 that Jimmy Miller sold his popular and successful restaurant called Jimmy’s Japanese Hibachi to Will Barnes. Miller went on to own another restaurant in Surfside Beach, and then this year opened The Original Jimmyz Hibachi House at 6108 N. Kings Highway in Myrtle Beach. That business is thriving.
Barnes sold Jimmy’s Japanese Hibachi, which was at 3401 N. Kings Highway in Myrtle Beach, where The Original Mr. Fish is now located, to Tony Bennett.
Bennett used to own Thoroughbred’s Restaurant, but he sold it to Kenny Kang. However, before selling Thoroughbreds Bennett had entered an agreement with Merchant Cash & Capital (MCC) to sell $202,500 worth of receivables for $150,000. After that date, according to court documents filed in a lawsuit by MCC against Bennett (who was doing business as Fried Okra Inc.) and Thoroughbreds Restaurant, “Several times after September 12, 2006, Thoroughbreds sold additional future receivables worth $607,500 to MCC for $450,000.”
To ensure payment to MCC, according to the court documents, “Thoroughbreds agreed to process all of its credit card transactions through a processor approved by MCC. The name of MCC’s approved processor was Cynergy Data. Under the contract, 35% of Thoroughbreds’ Visa and Mastercard credit card transactions were to be paid by Cynergy Data directly to MCC until the total amount paid to MCC amounted to $810,062. Prior to MCC receiving full payment of the…receivables, Thoroughbreds stopped using Cynergy Data as its credit card processor.”
MCC sued Bennett and Thoroughbreds for $233,737.96. A settlement was reached in June 2008. Shortly after, Thoroughbreds was sold to Kenny Kang. In June 2009 a judgement in the amount of $176,362 was ordered in favor of MCC, at a rate of 9% interest per year.
Moving on with Jimmy's
In the meantime Bennett had been opening Jimmy’s Japanese Hibachi restaurants; by August 2008 he had four. One was at Chopper’s Sports Bar & Grill (the former Sam Snead’s) at 9708 N. Kings Highway in Myrtle Beach, but that entire business is now closed. Until last week the Jimmy’s at Beach Plantation Point Plaza at 38th Avenue North, the one on Renee Drive in the Carolina Forest Shopping Center, and the location off S.C. 544 in The Shoppes at South Strand Commons were all still open.
But now they are all closed, and people are looking for Tony Bennett.