Amid lawsuit, growing fines, Cherry Grove Beach Gear fights to stay open

Published: Jul. 13, 2022 at 8:46 PM EDT
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NORTH MYRTLE BEACH, S.C. (WMBF) - The owner of Cherry Grove Beach Gear is now in his third week of fighting city officials in North Myrtle Beach over what he is able to sell.

The North Myrtle Beach City Council held an emergency executive session Tuesday to discuss a lawsuit involving Derek Calhoun and his right to sell and rent beach gear.

Calhoun said he does not look to stop fighting anytime soon, but he’s also fearful he could potentially lose his business.

“It’s scary,” said Calhoun. “It’s scary for myself and it’s scary for my family, the uncertainty. Can we keep our business? At this point, we’re too deep in this situation to back down now.”

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He added that he’s been frustrated after receiving his first fine on July 1, with the latest coming Wednesday.

“We were cited again this morning, so that’s 10 citations and $5,000 in fines,” said Calhoun.

In a statement, a city spokesperson said officials were aware of the lawsuit, but that it had not been served and “it is city policy not to respond to pending litigation.”

The legal fight comes amid a city ordinance that bans businesses other than the city from renting beach wares on the beach. Earlier this month, city council voted to amend that ordinance stating that no businesses, other than the city’s own rental service, can leave items unattended on the beach overnight.

Officials said the latter was proposed due to those items and debris being in the way of city workers cleaning the beaches.

According to Calhoun, council members stated at their last meeting that the previous ordinance’s intention from 2007 was not to have businesses operate on beaches.

He also mentioned that, according to the wording, his business adjusted its services to the ordinance.

Since the changing of the recent ordinance, however, Calhoun has been left with many questions.

“The city changed the ordinance to specially target us from any beach ware on the beach,” he said. “And when they retort with, ‘it’s always been this way.’ “Well, why was the ordinance changed then? Why was I never cited? Why was my business license not pulled? Why was our business not given some time or some amortization period to change our practices?”

Calhoun also claimed his business has acted as a partner of the city by refusing same-day services when it comes to rental packages his company provides. He said he refers those customers to beach services through the city.

As the fines stack up, he’s left fighting to support his family.

On Tuesday, he started selling T-shirts as a community request to support his business.

He’s also hopeful the support through a recent GoFundMe page set up through friends of the community will go directly towards litigation costs and fines from the citation.

“We’re a very little business fighting a very big entity,” said Calhoun “And we don’t want to lose by default just because we can’t afford litigation. This ordinance, these practices made by council don’t only affect us, it affects other small businesses around here, and sets a precedence that if the city doesn’t like you, you’re done, it’s sad.”

Calhoun plans to announce the next steps of how his business will move forward in August.

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