The Carolina Country Music Festival featuring Keith Urban, Tim McGraw, and Florida Georgia Line will be held this June 10th, 11th and 12th in Myrtle Beach oceanfront on the grounds of the former Myrtle Beach Pavilion.
Sheila Fletcher, of the Carolina Country Music Festival, asked Myrtle Beach City Council for $100,000 in monies collected from a 1% marketing tax the city charges all tourists who visit the Myrtle Beach area just yesterday. The money has previously been largely earmarked for the Myrtle Beach Area Chamber of Commerce to be used as marketing for the city.
The request has created significant controversy as festival organizers met last Fall with a group of more than 40 oceanfront merchants who expressed concerns that the festival dates, which were moved in 2016, now compete directly with these merchants’ peak summer business season. In 2015, many of the businesses that operate on Ocean Boulevard in the downtown area had their shops blocked from festival traffic leaving them entirely no business for that peak weekend. Festival attenders were given purchase vouchers that could be used anywhere with “out of state” vendors on the old pavilion grounds, but could not be redeemed by the local merchants who operate in the area year round.
Many oceanfront merchants saw their business revenues fall by more than 50% during the festival weekend last year.
These merchants have only 9 weeks in 2016 to realize income that will support their families into the next calendar year. Concerns among some merchants expressed at the Fall meeting included how they would make up for a prime weekend’s income from a group that only invests in Myrtle Beach once a year and pays no taxes beyond the weekend Country Music Festival experience.
The city is currently looking into charging these same local, oceanfront merchants an additional tax, the city calls the mid tax, to help develop the downtown area. The city has also began doing what it calls “courtesy inspections” on many of these oceanfront businesses for code compliance. Just this past week Myrtle Beach Area Chamber of Commerce President, Brad Dean, also spoke out in local media along with the city manager in requesting that certain items, such as T shirts with rebel flags or salacious slogans, should not be placed in the windows of shops in this area. Merchants have expressed that such a request violates their right to free speech
As Reports of Chinese funding of up to $500 million to develop the Oceanfront downtown area continue to be discussed, many small merchants are wondering if their businesses are being singled out in the myriad of changes currently underway. A redevelopment plan is now in the works that would create a Disney-like enterprise zone in that entire area, with small merchants being crowded out and replaced with one large corporate stake holder.
The festival is now held at peak Summer traffic season. The event is oceanfront and features some of the biggest names in country music. The event was very popular with tourists last Summer.
It appears everyone in this promotion wins, with the exception of the Oceanfront Merchants who have supported the city ongoing in business taxes, licenses, and hard work.