Smoke shops and tobacco stores could soon be banned from Ocean Boulevard if Myrtle Beach City Council passes the entertainment overlay district that was first proposed in May 2017.
The newly reworked ordinance adds several details — such as the banning of smoke and tobacco stores — to the originally proposed ordinance, including the prohibition of cannabis products, alternative nicotine, vapor products, e-cigarettes and tobacco.
Any merchandise with sexually oriented sayings also will be banned, and shops can not have “barkers,” or employees that call out to passersby.
The ordinance’s main goal is to create a family-friendly environment, Myrtle Beach Mayor Brenda Bethune said.
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“I’m not saying that those businesses are not what we want, I’m just saying that there currently is some merchandise that is not really in the scope of being family friendly,” Bethune said.
City council will review the second reading of the ordinance during Tuesday’s meeting.
According to photos provided by city manager John Pedersen, lollipops called Hemp Pops, bongs and pipes and cannabidiol oil, also known as CBD oil, are sold in stores along the boulevard.
Many products depict hemp leaves, which Pedersen and Bethune said could be mistaken as marijuana leaves.
“Does it make any difference to you as a parent bringing their 8-year-old child in whether it’s hemp or marijuana?” Pedersen asked. “Or does it make the same statement regardless?”
According to Bethune, the products are marketed to children.
“We are not trying to target legal merchandise and say you can’t sell this anywhere in the city,” Bethune said. “What we’re saying is there’s a perception issue with some of these products, and they do attract children, they are marketed for children, and that it does promote drug use.”
The ordinance does not specify what avenues the overlay district would cover. In the original proposal, items were to be banned between Sixth Avenue South to 16th Avenue North.
If council approves the reading, banned items must be removed by Dec. 31.
The public will have an opportunity to give input when it’s is discussed at council, without a time limit, city spokesman Mark Kruea said.
Since the ordinance was first proposed, Myrtle Beach Planning Commission voted against the idea, saying it would be pointless to ban the items in only one section of the city, said Carol Coleman, director of the planning department.
It appears the planning commission last discussed the overlay district in September 2017, Coleman said.
“There’s no clock between first and second reading,” Kruea said. “There could be years.”
What’s the vision for Ocean Boulevard?
Bethune said she would like to see businesses that offer an experience, like Ripley’s, line the boulevard to help attract families.
“You look at Myrtle Beach and the millions of visitors that we attract, and there’s no reason why we can’t attract some of the larger retailers, such as what see in Times Square and other areas — Disney Store, M&M store, Lego store,” Bethune said. “Things that families want to do.”
Families do visit the city now, but, Bethune said, “there are certain times of the year, and certain times at night that we have another element that’s there, and that’s what we need to take control of.”
Over the past few months, downtown merchants have formed a task force, working to improve the area through art and improving lighting and garbage pickup.
In March, Larry Bond, who owns several downtown restaurants, presented a 90-day plan that proposed lighting the palm trees, providing “wayfinders” to help guests with directions, and wall arts and murals to liven up the area.
The city has also hired two new code enforcement officers focused on enforcing ordinances, cleaning up garbage along the streets and checking to see if buildings are up to code in areas east of Kings Highway.
“When I was riding on the boulevard Saturday night, you go by the sugar, the candy place, it’s spotless, it’s clean and it’s packed with families,” Bethune said. “So that proves to me, wow, you’re just selling candy, but people go there, that’s what families want.”