NMB wants lawsuit dismissed, but Cherry Grove Beach Gear has strong case

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David Hucks
David Huckshttps://myrtlebeachsc.com
David Hucks is a 12th generation descendant of the area we now call Myrtle Beach, S.C. David attended Coastal Carolina University and like most of his family, has never left the area. David is the lead journalist at MyrtleBeachSC.com

The City of North Myrtle Beach is a defendant in a U.S. Federal trial. Attorneys representing the city have asked a federal judge to dismiss the lawsuit. The filings name the city as enacting an ordinance restricting free market competition.

Cherry Grove Beach Gear sued the city more than a year ago and requested a summary judgment.

This ordinance was passed by the city to preserve its monopoly on the rental of beach equipment, including chairs, umbrellas, and other items, according to the company’s lawsuit. According to the lawsuit, Cherry Grove Beach Gear complied with the ordinance at all times, including following restrictions about where beach equipment could be placed on the beach and when it needed to be removed.

According to a response filed by the city’s lawyers in U.S. District Court in Florence on Dec. 11, the court previously ruled that two state statutes support the city’s claim that it is permitted to grant franchises to beach equipment rental and sales companies.

However, the City of North Myrtle Beach has entered into the beach rental business, entirely. They are not granting franchises. They are actually operating a private enterprise.

MyrtleBeachSC News reviewed the filings by attorneys at Cherry Grove Beach Services. Those filings present a strong case against the city.

In an August 2022 court filing, the city argued that “the prohibition on delivery and set up of beach equipment is a proper exercise of the City’s broad Home Rule powers to adopt measures for improving the safety and enjoyment of the millions of people who visit the City’s beaches annually.”

What is Home Rule? 

Home rule means the exercise of independent authority by elected local governments. South Carolina local governments have very limited home rule–all of them in taxing powers, cities in taxing annexation, counties in powers of appointment and land use, school districts in almost everything. The home rule provisions of the Constitution enacted in 1974 gave count councils limited powers, but the legislative delegations continue to exercise considerable power in county affairs. The League supports more delegation of authority to county councils, less restrictive annexation laws for municipalities, more citizen input into structural issues (size of school board, district consolidation) for school districts, and fewer restrictions on taxing authority for all local governments. We oppose the use of local legislation on school district issues.


From reading the just above, Home Rule does not give the city any rights to establish a free market enterprise and then rule out other competitors. It appears Cherry Grove Beach Services has a strong case.

The private business set up by the City of North Myrtle Beach in the beach rental business brings in around $4 million per year. Should the City of North Myrtle Beach be allowed to operate a private business?

Coastal Grand Strand cities including North Myrtle Beach, Myrtle Beach, and Surfside Beach are increasingly doing so. The Town of Surfside Beach operates a pier business. The City of Myrtle Beach is a real estate developer. The City of North Myrtle Beach is in the beach chair rental business.

Are these governments, whose job it is to police our streets, pick up our trash, and provide infrastructure, encroaching on free market enterprises inside their own city limits?

According to court documents, a federal judge denied the Cherry Grove Beach Gear’s request for a preliminary injunction to stop the city from enforcing the ordinance in September 2022.

However, the case continues.

March 11, 2024 is the date of the trial.

We reached out to the attorneys for Cherry Grove Beach Gear. They had no comment, other than to say that they did not leak an article (friendly to the City of North Myrtle Beach’s claim – see section of article on how much the MBACC pays local Horry County media) published by the local press earlier this week.

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