Myrtle Beach City Council passed an ordinance June 11 that changed the rules regulating when, where and how people and businesses can solicit the public.
The ordinance tightens the restrictions a bit on commercial solicitation in certain areas of the city, including the downtown area. It creates a “protected zone,” which is described as the area bounded by the Atlantic Ocean to the east, 13th Avenue South on the south, along Kings Highway to Seventh Avenue North and along Broadway Street from Seventh Avenue North to Ninth Avenue North, then comes back to Kings Highway from Ninth Avenue North up to 21st Avenue North.
The law also makes it illegal for anyone to panhandle within city limits at any public or private parking lot, street ends, public parks, the Myrtle Beach Convention Center, the beach, any beach access and the boardwalk.
“Panhandling within the area creates a situation of unease and effects the quality of life and vacation experience for those here,” city attorney Tom Ellenburg said during the council meeting last week.
“I don’t want my wife – or anyone else for that matter – to go into any business and walk into a store and be harassed by people to the point that they don’t want to go to that business anymore,” Councilman Mike Lowder said during last week’s council workshop. “For someone to come up to me and ask me for money, I’m going to help them out – I’m going to call law enforcement.”
Many on the council said residents have told them about a number of people begging in parking lots at businesses – such as Wal-Mart on Seaboard Street and K-Mart on Kings Highway – and Councilman Michael Chestnut, who owns Big Mike’s Soul Food on 16th Avenue North, said he’s seen a problem with people approaching his customers as they enter and leave his store.
Councilman Philip Render suggested requesting private businesses have security in their parking lots if panhandling is an issue, but others on council thought it would negatively impact small businesses.
“I was my security last week – I went out there with a spatula,” Chestnut said, drawing laughs from those attending the workshop.
The proposed ordinance also would restrict the use of “wheeled devices” such as rollerblades and skateboards in the protected zone, The Market Common and in the public right of way, as well as prohibit negligent use in city limits.
The restrictions in The Market Common would be within the area bound south and west to Farrow Parkway, north to Phillis Boulevard and east to Shine Avenue. The restrictions would exclude the multipurpose paths on the Grand Park side of The Market Common, city spokesman Mark Kruea said.
In August 2012, council passed an ordinance that did not allow any solicitation on the beach, boardwalk or at the Myrtle Beach Convention Center, but some forms of solicitation could be allowed on streets, sidewalks and in parks.
Ellenburg said the recent court opinions have shifted, allowing the city to re-establish non-solicitation zones.