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Downtown could be a ghost town if Myrtle Beach gets its way

Four days is all it took for Myrtle Beach city government to upend our town’s downtown hub.

In a 5-2 vote, the city banned the sale of a wide variety of lawful items. Notably, the ban is not citywide. The affected area accounts for about 20 blocks in the heart of Ocean Boulevard.

Why did the city target this particular stretch? Certainly not because of a legitimate public safety concern. Of 136 arrests that occurred within the very recent past, 53 were alcohol-related. Not a single one of those arrests involved any of the banned items.

Officials claim their actions are in service of engineering family-friendliness, but all evidence points to more sinister intentions.

It appears that nearly 100 percent of affected businesses are owned or operated by Jewish people. Whether that’s by design or mere coincidence, the effect is that Jews — a protected class under the Constitution — are being disproportionately displaced by the city’s bizarre vote.

Even more galling is the deprivation of property rights. Any sane zoning decision uses a “grandfather” provision to preserve existent businesses. In the absence of this very ordinary provision, expect in the coming months to see shuttered store fronts and foreclosure signs and a much longer line at the unemployment office.

Downtown could be a ghost town by Dec. 31, when the law, unless challenged, will take effect.

The prevailing bedrock of our justice system is predictability: Courts routinely reject laws that are arbitrary, hasty and vague.

Imagine what potential investors are thinking right now! Surely they’re reluctant to sign leases, take out mortgages, purchase inventory, install fixtures, and open their doors when, at any moment, local government can waste it all with the wave of a hand.

Did the City of Myrtle Beach learn nothing from the helmet law scandal a few years ago? Critics expect this case to proceed along the same lines — at crippling cost to taxpayers. And at whose gain? No one wins when we fight each other.

It’s a shame that, only months into Mayor Brenda Bethune’s tenure, her administration has declared war on the town’s commercial hub. Downtown is not perfect, of course, but it is certainly preferable to the ghost town that could settle in this winter.

— Mande Wilkes is a media strategist and former television producer. She lives in Surfside with her husband, two sons, and tiny dog.

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