By Paul Gable
News of Ocean Boulevard merchants suing the City of Myrtle Beach to overturn the entertainment overlay district ordinance the city passed in August 2018 was generally lost in the hype created by the county administrator’s bogus allegations last week.
However, the lawsuit could prove to be more far reaching in reining in the ability of local governments and their officials to run wild over the rights of businesses and citizens whenever and wherever they choose.
The lawsuit was filed in Florence Federal District Court because the ordinance in seen by the business owners as an all-out attack on their constitutional rights. The lawsuit alleges curtailing of free speech guaranteed by the 1st Amendment to the Constitution; lack of due process and equal protection of the law guaranteed by the 5th and 14th Amendments and civil rights violations in that the ordinance targets businesses that are almost exclusively owned by Jewish merchants.
A key paragraph in the lawsuit states, “Specifically, but not exclusively, the Ordinance is not narrowly tailored to serve any significant governmental interest and imposes restrictions that are greater than necessary to further such interests because, on its face and as applied, it restricts display and sale of merchandise that is allowed in other parts of the City of Myrtle Beach.”
Other key areas in the lawsuit are: (1) The Ordinance is an irrational and unreasonable statute, imposing unjustifiable restrictions on the exercise of constitutional rights and (2) “…all or substantially all of the merchants within the Overlay district contemplated by the Ordinance are of Jewish descent or extraction, and that as a result, the Ordinance as applied, if not facially, violates the Equal Protection Clause of the U. S. Constitution’s Fourteenth Amendment; and (3) “Plaintiffs are informed and believe that the Ordinance does and will deprive them of all or substantially all of the economically viable use of their businesses.”
The lawsuit requests immediate injunctive relief by the Court and a declaratory judgement declaring the acts of the Defendants (city, city council and administrator) to be a violation of the Plaintiffs constitutional rights.
The Entertainment Overlay District ordinance does seem to be significant government overreach and, with its concentration on Jewish owned businesses, can be viewed as a modern version of the Anti-Jewish laws passed by Nazi Germany in the mid 1930’s.
Is this really the image supposedly ‘family friendly Myrtle Beach’ wants to portray?
Fifteen months after passing first reading of the ordinance, city council, with three new members since first reading, rushed through second reading of the ordinance that had been substantially changed, attorneys estimate 80% of the ordinance changed from the version passed in first reading.
Apparently clueless to the irony involved, at the same meeting council passed second reading of the overlay ordinance, it also celebrated the U. S. Constitution by designating a “Constitution Week” for the city.
If only city officials had actually read the document.
As 2018 comes to a close, serious incidents of overreach by local government officials and/or full councils remain a problem for local businesses and citizens.
A New Year’s resolution by citizens to remain vigilant against outrageous acts by their elected and appointed officials and demand their respective governments serve in the best interests of all the people, not just a few insiders, is appropriate.