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Myrtle Beach to block new smoke and vape shops from opening this year in city limits

Zoning to create a more ‘family friendly’ Ocean Boulevard

Myrtle Beach city council plans to vote Tuesday on a new "entertainment overlay district" that would ban the sell of merchandise such as, CBD oil, smoke shop paraphernalia and sexually oriented clothing. Aug, 13 2018.
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Myrtle Beach city council plans to vote Tuesday on a new "entertainment overlay district" that would ban the sell of merchandise such as, CBD oil, smoke shop paraphernalia and sexually oriented clothing. Aug, 13 2018.

Smoke and “vape” shops will be restricted from opening in Myrtle Beach while city planning officials study future zoning options for smoking-centric businesses.

City council approved an ordinance on first reading that temporarily bans granting permits to businesses selling CBD oil, e-cigarettes and tobacco paraphernalia as well as businesses primarily selling cigars, cigarettes and/or tobacco.

The moratorium will not affect any currently opened businesses, and would still allow businesses to open that sell tobacco products as an ancillary sale — defined in the ordinance as no more than 2 percent of its gross floor area, or 200 square feet, whichever is less.

The ordinance will now head to the city’s planning commission, which will study how to zone these businesses, including whether they should be allowed to operate near each other or child care facilities.

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The commission also will make a recommendation about whether current businesses should be grandfathered in under the potential new zoning ordinance, or if they would need to conform. The planning commission must deliver its recommendation to council by Jan. 1, 2020, though Planning Director Carol Coleman told council she believed the commission would be able to deliver a recommendation more quickly.

The ordinance passed 5-2 with council members Mike Lowder and Philip Render opposing.

Lowder asked if a cigar shop would be prevented from opening under this ordinance, and when he was told by city attorney Tom Ellenburg that they would, he stated he couldn’t support it as written.

Mayor Brenda Bethune said she shared the same concerns as Lowder regarding potential new businesses, but she supported the ordinance because she didn’t want to delay the planning commission’s study.

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Ellenburg said he suspects any zoning recommendations made by the planning commission will lead to a great deal of debate among council members before anything is passed.

This moratorium comes on the heels of a controversial decision to ban smoke shops, CBD oil and other products along a stretch of Ocean Boulevard by creating an overlay district. Lowder also opposed that decision.

Several businesses impacted by that decision have since filed a federal lawsuit against the city alleging violations of free speech, due process and equal protection.

Investigative project reporter David Weissman joined The Sun News after three years working at The York Dispatch in Pennsylvania, where he earned awards for his investigative reports on topics including health, business, politics and education.
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