SURFSIDE BEACH, SC (WMBF) - The Town of Surfside Beach discussed on Tuesday the issue of beach tents, and considered eliminating them from their beaches over safety and appearance concerns.
"The complaint is people put them up early in the morning and go away and leave them and maybe come back early in the afternoon," Mayor Bob Childs said. "It kind of squeezes the beach because in the south end they don't have a lot of beach down there, so I think that's probably what started this issue."
Surfside Beach is one of the few remaining areas along the Grand Strand that still allows beach tents, at least during daylight hours. The current city code prohibits tents and other obstructions, but only from 9 p.m. to 7:30 a.m.
The Surfside Beach Town Council discussed banning them altogether at Tuesday's regular meeting. The town's fire department said they are having issues accessing people who require help. It's tents, not umbrellas, that are causing issues.
The council also discussed issues for people renting beachfront condos, some of whom are paying thousands of dollars a week for a property with a beach view.
Ultimately, the governing body voted 4 to 3 to bring back a first reading of an ordinance to eliminate beach tents. However, Childs said the town hasn't drafted that ordinance yet and is looking into the issue.
"We've got to look and make sure what we're doing is the proper thing," he said. "This is the first step. It was just brought up in discussion last night."
He said he wants to hear what people in the town think.
"We can't ban tents in just one sweep and that means all businesses and everything else will be affected," he said.
Childs said people didn't complain about beach tents in Surfside Beach back then, which is why the town still allows them.
"We like to wait to hear from the residents before we jump and do something," he said. "We just hadn't heard them at that point. Now we're looking into it."
Jack Welsh, who was visiting Surfside Beach from Massachusetts, said he doesn't mind beach tents.
"I believe beach tents are fine, especially if you have younger children. It's important to keep them out of the sun for certain periods of the day," he said. "It's nice to be able to put all of your items in them."
Travis Worthy, of Surfside Realty, said the fact that Surfside Beach has allowed beach tents has brought in more tourists.
"They specifically ask because a lot of them stayed in Garden City, so when the rules went into effect they had to move from Garden City to Surfside," he said.
Worthy said reservations have increased this year and he's not sure how all of those people would react to a tent ban now.
"It's not good because it creates a problem with us with our guests," he said. "I think it's a little bit in the ninth hour to be wanting to make this change now."
Worthy suggests revisiting the consideration of a tent ban in the fall instead of right before the influx of tourists.
"Timing is not right. This is not a good time," he said. "Surfside, this town is driven by tourists. We just need them to be happy. We can't afford for them not to be happy."