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Shoppers wearing face masks waiting in line outside of a store in North Myrtle Beach. Photo by Andrea Maestre

North Myrtle Beach City Council extends face mask mandate, joins hospitality tax settlement

By Ruben Lowman

North Myrtle Beach City Council met on Monday, Aug. 31, and passed a resolution approving the city to join a lawsuit against Horry County over the collection of the hospitality tax, as well as extending the emergency ordinance mandating the wearing of facial coverings while inside most establishments.

City council approved the resolution which directs city manager Mike Mahaney to sign a Settlement Agreement in Principle and join nearly every other municipality in the area in a lawsuit brought against the county by the city of Myrtle Beach in March 2019.

Myrtle Beach city officials stated that leaders within the county had wrongfully imposed and collected revenue from the hospitality tax fee from hotels and other accommodations since 2017. The 1.5 percent tax was implemented in 1996 in order to help provide a source of funding to improve transportation infrastructure within the county.

While only identified in court documents together as similarly situated plaintiffs, North Myrtle Beach joins other municipalities throughout the Grand Strand in the case, including Surfside Beach, Conway and Aynor.

The city of Myrtle Beach and Horry County began to argue part of the case a few weeks ago before the Supreme Court.

When council first met and approved the emergency face mask ordinance for 60 days councilmembers expressed reticence while ultimately passing the mandate in order to protect public health and safety and prevent the spread of COVID-19.

“There’s no one up here on the council who was looking forward to voting on this ordinance but there is a responsibility for all of us to look out for the health and safety of our community,” said Mayor Marilyn Hatley during the initial council meetings pertaining to the measure. “Wearing a mask is a simple thing. It’s easy to wear them into the stores, which this ordinance basically is just mandating people to wear a mask into public places.”

At the time, the new infection rates for the Grand Strand area were at record levels and rising. “People aren’t socially distancing, people aren’t wearing masks, people are not following the regulations that have been laid out for us,” Hatley said.

Since the facial covering mandate has taken place the numbers for new infection rates have dropped significantly, demonstrating the effectiveness that using a facial covering while in public has helped in reducing the spread of the coronavirus.

The extended ordinance will have the same requirements, that all staff and customers at retail stores, including grocery stores, pharmacies, nail salons and barber salons, as well as all restaurants, wear a facial covering while inside the establishment, unless medically unable to or if it is against your religion.

Businesses are not required to enforce that everyone is wearing a facial covering but they must post signage at their entrances informing the public about the ordinance.

Like the original emergency ordinance, the extension will be for 60 days and may be extended further or rescinded if deemed unnecessary over the next two months.

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