Myrtle Beach businesses ask U.S. Supreme Court to hear case against city

Published: Oct. 4, 2023 at 5:34 PM EDT
Email This Link
Share on Pinterest
Share on LinkedIn

MYRTLE BEACH, S.C. (WMBF) - A five-year-old lawsuit starting in Myrtle Beach may soon be hitting the highest court in the nation.

Between 6th Avenue South and 16th Avenue North is known as the Ocean Boulevard Overlay District.

A 2018 city ordinance said shops cannot sell vaping and CBD-based products, tobacco paraphernalia and sexually explicit merchandise.

Nine different business owners said this was unconstitutional.

“There’s no shortage of bars, there’s no shortage of nightclubs, they’ve targeted us unfairly,” said Gene Connell, an attorney representing these businesses. “We argued to the Supreme Court of South Carolina that you can’t do that as a matter of law.”

But, the state Supreme Court ruled that Myrtle Beach’s ordinance is constitutional. The businesses, including Blue Smoke Vape Shop, the Myrtle Beach General Store, Pacific Beachwear and several others have appealed the case.

“When someone’s trying to put you out of business, you have no alternative but to fight,” said Tuvia Wilkes, head of the Jewish Merchant Group

Wilkes said he represents many of the businesses listed in the lawsuit and called the city’s ordinance “ludicrous.”

“We just didn’t understand it, you know, how can you let people go in the Exxon up here and buy a vape pen but we can’t sell it?” said Wilkes.

WMBF News reached out to multiple representatives for the city of Myrtle Beach. We were told the city does not comment on active litigation.

But, the city has previously said they want the designated area to be family-friendly.

The businesses argue that the time the city gave for the ordinance to go into effect, four months, was too short.

“You can’t tell a business that’s been doing something for 30 years that you have to stop in four months,” said Connell.

They also argue that if the city gets its way, the businesses should be compensated under the Taking Clause of the United States Constitution, which states that “just compensation” must be paid by the government if property is taken from a business.

“In business, if something does not make sense, it cannot make dollars,” said Wilkes.

Connell said he filed the case to the Supreme Court on Sept. 26, and the city has until Oct. 26 to respond. However, just because the case was filed, does not mean the court will actually hear it, but Connell said it’s worth taking the chance.

“You’ve targeted a small group of people in a small area and said, ‘you can’t sell these items,’ but Walmart, Walgreens across the street from that area, you can sell that,” said Connell. “If you really want to talk about public health and family-friendly, outlaw the sale of cigarettes at every business in Myrtle Beach.”