The disagreement on the Myrtle Beach City Council over a proposed food truck rodeo on the Pavilion site highlights a misunderstanding by some members of their overall responsibility for the public good. After council members expressed concern about food truck sales hurting brick-and-mortar restaurants, the council put off a vote until its next meeting, June 26.
There will be food trucks on the Pavilion site, unsettled is how many and how often. Originally, the plan was to have food trucks, live entertainment, and a kids area on Fridays and Saturdays through August at the Pavilion site on Ocean Boulevard. The landmark location was an amusement park, which Burroughs and Chapin closed in 2006. The Carolina Country Music Fest is held annually on the 10-acre site. The food truck event might draw 15,000 to 20,000 people over several weeks.
A few years ago, when Horry County Council discussed allowing food trucks in unincorporated areas, the brick-and-mortar concern was brought up. Councilman Harold Worley (who had a financial interest in such establishments) claimed food trucks would hurt business. County councilman Bill Howard had the same concern when he asked Myrtle Beach Mayor Brenda Bethune to oppose having food trucks. Howard owns a restaurant in downtown Myrtle Beach and said he wanted the mayor “… to support the local businesses and not let food trucks come in and park for four months. That’d just kill us.”
Really? Consider the view of Larry Bond, owner of four restaurants in downtown Myrtle Beach, and not concerned about food trucks being in the area for the summer. Bond’s take is that the rodeo will bring people back to Ocean Boulevard and they will want to “check out everything else and it’s gonna give them a reason to come back.”
Business people like Bond understand that competition can have positive results. Shopping malls long have had more than one big department store, and the major retailers (Belk, Bass Pro Shops, Dillard’s) like the fact that people go to more than one store. Food truck customers are likely to buy a hot dog or whatever at another business, or see another restaurant that appeals to them and return to eat there.
Bethune, a small retailer who understands change, pointed out in the council discussion that the bigger picture is making use of outdoor spaces. Bringing more people, including residents, to Ocean Boulevard helps focus on a family friendly image. She noted that the Pavilion sold food when it operated for years. And when the area is redeveloped, it surely will include eateries.
Some council members, particularly Mike Lowder and Phil Render, are missing the point that food trucks will not necessarily hurt other restaurants, and that food trucks also are businesses; their owners pay license fees and taxes. City and county councils have a responsibility to the overall public good, the commonweal; council members should stop acting as though the city has special protective responsibility to any particular type of business.
Let the food trucks rolls into the Pavilion site, the more the merrier.