Backgate businesses say sign hurts bottom line

MYRTLE BEACH, SC (WMBF) - Business owners at the Backgate say they're taking a beating since construction has shifted over at the 17 Bypass and Farrow Parkway intersection. Many say driver's eyes are drawn to a sign that says "Road Closed," and it sends the message for drivers to move around, but it's also driving away business.

"Because people pass it up," said Jurgen Zimmer, owner of Auto Haus. "You know like between six and a half, seven out of 10 people pass it up, and we lose them."

Zimmer, the owner of Auto Haus, says losing that many drivers to the sign means losing potential customers. WMBF News spoke to other business owners in the area. Some looked over their books, and claim sales are down about 50 percent of the normal business around this busy time of year. To them, it's all because people are confused by the closure sign that's facing traffic on 17 Bypass.

Local shop owners say it's all you see before you have to make the quick turn on Port Drive to access their shops. Since workers with the Backgate project put up the sign to protect area drivers, owners say they also need to protect area businesses.

"The state needs to come in and put signs for the businesses that are affected here," said Murray Willitts. "And show where they need to turn for those businesses."

Business owners also say they've contacted SCDOT about the sign, asking officials to do something about it, but have received no response.

WMBF News reached out to the agency, and SCDOT officials say the main concern is making it easier for drivers to get around all the construction. Especially since people in the area say traffic is already a challenge.

"They are confused and they will cause accidents," said Judy Burke, on drivers in the area. "So they have to be aware of the road construction and how to get on the road that they really want."

SCDOT officials say contractors are usually responsible for placing the signs around construction projects, but SCDOT does have to approve it before it goes up. In this case, workers have moved the "Road Closed" sign further back on 17 Bypass to clear up any confusion when you're trying to get on Port Drive.

As far as changing the wording on the sign, the agency says it will only create a bigger mess for drivers. But business owners feel it's already messy and say that the sign is hurting their bottom line. They want SCDOT to do something, and fast.

"I don't know if any business will survive along this street here because due to the fact of what is happening", said Zimmer.

"It becomes very frustrating. While I do realize that this construction is needed, I just feel that they could go at it at a little bit better of a way", adds Willitts.

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