South Carolina

Myrtle Beach loosens proposed strict restrictions for certain events

Activity was brisk, Wednesday evening on Ocean Boulevard in Myrtle Beach as the Memorial Day weekend gets underway in 2014.
Activity was brisk, Wednesday evening on Ocean Boulevard in Myrtle Beach as the Memorial Day weekend gets underway in 2014.

Myrtle Beach has decided not to impose restrictions such as prohibiting dogs and police scanners during large events as originally proposed because officials say the strict rules gave the wrong impression.

Myrtle Beach City Council on Tuesday removed those rules for “extraordinary events” such as Atlantic Beach Bikefest and the Carolina Country Music Fest and tabled an ordinance concerning riots.

City Manager John Pedersen said the ordinances gave the wrong impression.

“We’re prepared to welcome visitors and encourage them to have fun and obey the law,” Pedersen said. “We have other tools to deal with [extreme circumstances] if necessary.”

Pedersen said since first reading of both ordinances April 14, he heard feedback from residents who support the city’s intentions but worried about the perception.

He said he spoke with those residents and with police Chief Warren Gall and decided those aspects of the plans were not necessary.

“We were sending the wrong message and we were sending the wrong message unintentionally,” he said.

The extraordinary events ordinance originally included language that prohibited a number of items, including animals there were not service animals, helmets worn with the intent of resisting law enforcement, coolers carried with the intent to conceal a weapon and others.

Pedersen on Tuesday recommended that Myrtle Beach City Council amend the ordinance to remove those prohibitions.

City Council passed second and final reading of an ordinance Tuesday that defines an extraordinary event as any planned event that may or has recently resulted in death, personal injury, property damage or destruction and majorly disrupts the city as an extraordinary event.

City Council also passed a resolution Tuesday declaring Atlantic Beach Bikefest – which occurs for several days before Memorial Day – and the Carolina Country Music Festival, which is expected to draw at least 10,000 attendees, as extraordinary events.

The ordinance still gives the city manager authority to temporarily close businesses in certain areas between 11 p.m. and 6 a.m.; require businesses in those areas to employ private security officers; and to create “no cruising zones” for all vehicles, among other things.

Those who disobey the ordinance would be charged with a misdemeanor and would face a fine of up to $500 or jail time up to 30 days, or a combination of both.

This is the latest in a list of changes made by Grand Strand officials since last May to improve safety during Memorial Day weekend – which turned deadly last year. Three people died and seven were injured in eight shootings on Ocean Boulevard in Myrtle Beach when tens of thousands of people travel to the area to enjoy a three-day weekend at the beach or participate in Bikefest.

Former Mayor Mark McBride questioned the timing of the ordinance during public comments made at the City Council meeting.

“To do an ordinance like this – put it on the consent agenda without public comment – three weeks before the event, when you’ve had a year to do it, it doesn’t seem right,” McBride said.

Council also decided not to take up an ordinance that defines riots and unlawful assemblies as three or more people acting in a way that jeopardizes public safety and authorizes police to order a crowd to disperse whether on public or private property. That ordinance also was given first reading earlier this month.

City Council also passed an amendment that requires council approval before the city manager can declare all special events – other than the appearance of a statewide elected official, national or international political or religious dignitary.

Contact MAYA T. PRABHU at 444-1722 or on Twitter @TSN_mprabhu.