Myrtle Beach adjusts 'thong law' Tuesday

MYRTLE BEACH, SC (WMBF) - Myrtle Beach leaders are one step closer to passing a tougher indecent exposure law that allows officers to issue tickets or make arrests the first time they see someone baring too much skin.

The City Council passed the first reading of the ordinance Tuesday. The previous so-called "thong ordinance" requires officers to issue a warning before issuing tickets.

Mayor John Rhodes says this ordinance has banned thongs on the beach for a while.

"There's been a law the last 16 years against thongs - period," explained Rhodes. "Is it a good thing? A bad thing? Well, it's the law."

This is just a change to existing law. This indecent exposure law has been in place for many years - but all those years, the police officer would first give a warning.

The new ordinance would now take away the chance for an officer to give out a "cover-up" warning first and go treat to the ticket.

City spokesman Mark Kruea says the tougher law is not in response to May motorcycle rallies along the Grand Strand, although he acknowledges the biker events bring an increase in illegally exposed skin. The city has approved a number of ordinances to restrict the biker activities.

While some agree more action is needed to keep people from baring too much, other say a little give-and-take may be all the city needs.

"A compromise might be arrived at, and that would be to have several sections of the beach where that type of dress would be appropriate and other sections where it wouldn't be appropriate," said Myrtle Beach resident Gordon Rennie.

Another resident, Paul Santos, says he disagrees with the law, because where he's from in South America, wearing thongs is normal.

"Here because everybody wears such a large bathing suit," said Santos, "like covering the whole body, so when you see such a nice lady wearing such a small bikini, it becomes a big deal, which I don't think should be a big deal."

The city's current indecent exposure ordinance was approved in 1993.

Sec. 14-83. Indecent exposure (NOTE: This law makes the wearing of "thong" bathing suits and similar clothing illegal in public, including on the beach.):

According to Kruea, the City Council erased Section (b), which requires the officer to first issue a warning. The text of Section (a) would remain as it has for the past 16 years.

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