The Oceanfront Merchants Association (OMA) are a collective of shops, restaurants, hotels, and bars located in the area formerly known as the Myrtle Beach pavilion.
Last week, Mayor Rhodes accepted an apology from the group. The group’s previous, highly regarded leader ran for City Council last Fall expressing a need to address the now high crime and homelessness in that area. Mayor Rhodes believed that OMA leader’s campaign embarrassed the city.
New OMA president, Chris Walker, apologized on behalf of OMA, after agreeing to accept a $275,000 tax check from the city on behalf of OMA for ongoing events. “I would like to start off with a clean slate … and apologize for any perception that the businesses down here were against the city in any way,” Walker said. The new tax grant of $275,000 almost doubles the tax grant the city generally extends to the group of Oceanfront Merchants annually.
When discussing the check, the Mayor suggested closing a stretch of Ocean Boulevard to vehicle traffic one night a week. He said this would open the road to more foot traffic.
The president of OMA, Chris Walker, told council he would be willing to try the mayor’s plan to close down the boulevard as long as it wasn’t for a long period of time.
Rhodes proposed the city close Ocean Boulevard from 7th-10th Avenue North. The closure would last from 4 p.m.-1 a.m.
“If you’re walking, you’re spending,” Rhodes stated. ” If you’re riding, you’re not.”
Closing those streets has been an ongoing desire of local corporate giant Burroughs and Chapin. The Mayor has made as many as eight recent trips to China on behalf of that firm and other corporations to help sell golf course assets that were losing money in our area. The Mayor, Brad Dean (Myrtle Beach Chamber of Commerce C.E.O.), and County Council Chair Mark Lazarus have each visited China bringing back over $2oo million to date. Chinese Investors have now purchased $25 million in Oceanfront land at the Dunes Club, over 22 area golf courses, and are expected to loan or invest $500 million in the downtown area of Myrtle Beach once the city can get the current crop of small business owners in hand.
Several small merchants we spoke with believe closing Ocean Boulevard in that area would help to accelerate the demise of many local shops. The city has approached these merchants ongoing requesting approval of a mid tax that the city and Burroughs and Chapin would like to see assessed to these small merchants.
With the now $275,000 grant from accommodations tax monies going to OMA, many believe the Mayor and City Council will use this opportune moment to pass the mid tax onto the entire downtown area. Monies from the mid tax would more than offset the tax grant just given to OMA and would be perpetually ongoing.