MYRTLE BEACH, S.C. (WMBF) – The Myrtle Beach City Council passed an ordinance at an emergency meeting Thursday that calls for hotels along the Grand Strand to stop taking new reservations for more than a month.
Myrtle Beach Mayor Brenda Bethune said the city had hoped that Gov. Henry McMaster would enact a statewide order restricting tourism. But since the governor has not made one, city leaders called an emergency meeting and took action to protect those who call Myrtle Beach home.
“Our priority is our own community. That’s what we did today, we put our community first because we have to and it’s the right thing to do,” Bethune said.
The emergency ordinance orders all accommodation businesses in the city of Myrtle Beach, including hotels, motels, Airbnb and campgrounds, to not accept new reservations prior to May 1, starting immediately. The time limit is subject to modification.
Existing reservations made for March 28 through April 30, 2020, would be canceled or rescheduled. Current reservations could not be extended, according to the order.
All those in the accommodations would have to vacate by 12 p.m. on Sunday, March 29. Those units consistently occupied since March 1, 2020, are exempt, with the stipulation being they not accept any new visitors.
“The sooner we take strong action now, the sooner we can get to that recovery phase and get back to our daily lives and things back up and running,” Bethune said.
WMBF News reached out to the Myrtle Beach Police Department and asked how officers would enforce the new ordinance and know if visitors have vacated by Sunday.
The department replied, “A variety of means will be used to educate our business community on the ordinance. We are focused on helping the effort to educate and are seeking voluntary compliance.”
Additionally, all amusements in Myrtle Beach would close by Friday, March 27, according to the emergency ordinance.
Karen Riordan, president & CEO of the Myrtle Beach Area Chamber of Commerce, released the following statement after city council’s decision:
“COVID-19 is an unprecedented event affecting our entire country and our thoughts are with those who have been sickened by this disease. And while we are deeply saddened by the effects of this virus on our tourism industry, we appreciate the aggressive efforts of our local, state and federal officials to flatten the curve and protect the residents and visitors of our community from COVID-19.
This remains a very difficult situation for everyone and the impact of closing our community to visitors for an extended period is significant for our tourism industry.
We expect the newly passed CARES Act to provide some relief for our tourism partners. This federal legislation gives employers in our tourism-driven industry more tools to help navigate these unprecedented circumstances. Programs include loans, grants, tax deferral options, accounting flexibility and specific modifications that will help keep businesses from shuttering.
The CARES Act includes a much needed $377 billion in loans and loan forgiveness for small businesses. It also bolsters the unemployment insurance trust fund and weekly payments for laid off hospitality employees, something thousands of laid off employees in Horry County are counting on to help make ends meet.
In addition to providing information and resources for small businesses to use during these uncertain times, MBACC is also working to develop a recovery plan for our local community and a strategic marketing campaign to bring visitors back when the time is right.”