SURFSIDE BEACH — Johnny Drew may be moving his store out of Surfside Beach.
Wednesday was the last day he could sell goods outside the Surfside Beach Thrift Store he operates with his family on the corner of 10th Avenue South.
He’s frustrated by a town ordinance that limits the number of days businesses can sell goods in outdoor displays and issued an ultimatum for Town Council - change the rule, or his business is leaving. Drew said he didn’t know about the law when he applied for the business license this spring.
The law gives businesses the option to use all 60 days in a row. Starting Thursday, the furniture and appliances will need to stay inside his store or Drew will face hefty fines.
Drew insists he’s being treated unfairly, but Mayor Doug Samples said that’s simply not the case.
“We are concerned about businesses and we’re not trying to chase him out of town,” he said. “What we don’t want to do is have yard sales up and down the highway that might affect the business that we do have.”
Drew is already looking at locations outside the town, but said he would stay if Town Council would amend the ordinance that was adopted in its current form in March 2011.
The council decided to extend the limit on outdoor sales – which require a special permit – last year to a minimum of five consecutive days with a total of 60 days per year.
Samples said further changes to the law aren’t likely. The planning commission reviewed the issue and told Town Council at its July 10 meeting that the law did not need to be revisited.
Drew said it isn’t fair that golf carts can be outside year-round and grocery stores like the Piggly Wiggly can sell potted plants and firewood outdoors daily.
Surfside Beach allows those because they are considered permanent displays. Exceptions to the ordinance include newspaper containers, vending machines, cars, motorcycles, golf carts, bicycles, motor homes, travel trailers, boats, propane bottles, nursery and agricultural products and ice machines.
The assorted furniture outside Drew’s store is not exempt and requires the special permit.
Councilman Randle Stevens is still hopeful for the formation of a business committee to help look at issues and form solutions when issues like this surface. Stevens has been trying to set that committee up since his inauguration and said Drew’s frustrations are just one more example of the need for the committee.
“We’re going to have to look at all the different laws and that’s why we need that committee to help us and make some recommendations to council because who has a better opinion than business owners,” he said.
The formation of the business committee remains pending.
Cecil Chandler, a customer at the thrift store, believes Drew’s outdoor displays should be allowed.
“It’s set out in a neat way, a long way from the road,” Chandler said of the outdoor sales. “That’s what prompted me to stop the first time.”
Chandler said he and his wife now drive by the shop once a week to see if there’s anything new.
Patricia Magliette shops there too. She said she likes the products outside because it’s a nice way to see what’s available. Additionally, she said anything to help the town’s businesses would be worthwhile given the struggling economy.
Drew said he’s already let one employee go about a week before his 60th day passed, and that he will need to fire more if the ordinance isn’t changed because the revenues are expected to drop.
Sales increase by about 200 percent when items are displayed outside, Drew said.
About 14 people are employed by the business, which also has a storage facility at another location in the town.
Drew said the store will remain open in Surfside Beach until a new location is found, but the hours are likely to change.
Contact AMANDA KELLEY at 626-0381.