Juan Molina is fed up.
Scanning his nearly empty shop, the owner of Sugar Twist is frustrated with the barricades and traffic plan implemented for the Carolina Country Music Fest. That plan includes the closure of Ocean Boulevard between 8th and 9th Avenues North.
“I hate it,” he said. “They block us out.”
Molina's shop sits in the 700 block of North Ocean Boulevard. It offers candy, ice cream and other merchandise. Molina said pedestrians tend to be farther north, and he considers his establishment in “the suburbs.” Thursday was his worst day of the year for sales during a month that's typically busy. He blames the festival for the slower traffic.
“This is just terrible,” he said. “There’s no people.”
Molina pointed out that the concert series, which kicked off Thursday and wraps up Sunday, happens during a vital part of the tourist season when graduates, their families and others flock to the Grand Strand.
“It’s 90, 100 days,” he said of that span. “You take four of them, that’s crazy. It’s a lot of money we lose.”
Despite the additional police and barricades brought in for the Memorial Day weekend Bikefest, Molina said that period is actually better for his business than CCMF. He said Memorial Day weekend was his best so far in 2019.
Farther north, Jimmy Waldorf also expressed irritation.
“When they have to close off the boulevard to have an event over there — any event — it causes chaos down here because of traffic,” the owner of Fun Plaza Arcade said. “Then what happens is people don’t want to come down to this area. They don’t want to get into that mess.”
Earlier in the week, the arcade in the 900 block of the boulevard was packed with visitors.
“I was killing it,” he said. “I was blowing it away.”
Things changed by Thursday.
“All of a sudden, it goes [to] 'This isn't Myrtle Beach anymore. This is CCMF,'" he said. "It’s all about that.”
He suggested having the festival at the former Myrtle Square Mall site across from the Myrtle Beach Convention Center. He said that space is larger, has offsite parking and there wouldn’t be upset business owners.
But, Waldorf said, not all businesses suffer because of the event. People need to eat and have a place to sleep, and that benefits restaurants and hotels.
“For me and from what I see in here is that it impacts a lot of businesses in the area negatively and a few positively,” he said. “But the few are only a few. The rest of us are sitting here waiting for this weekend to be over with.”
Just a few doors down from Sugar Twist, Daniel Becker is pleased with the festival. Becker, who runs ART Burger Sushi Bar, said the restaurant sees an increase in sales because of CCMF.
“It’s one of the better weekends,” he said.
Although there are clearly businesses benefiting from the festival, some others insist it comes at a cost to them. The owners of Nathan’s Famous restaurant filed a lawsuit last year over the road restrictions. The 8th Avenue North diner sued the organizers of CCMF, and the case remains pending.
Jakob Morovitz, owner of Hole in the Wall on 9th Avenue North, is irate about the barriers.
“They kill my business,” said Morovitz, who also owns Good Vibes Myrtle Beach, a store in the boardwalk area.
He acknowledged that the former Pavilion site where the CCMF grounds are located is a solid place for the event because it’s close to the ocean. But Morovitz said June, July and part of August are critical for his store.
“What about us?” he said. “We pay taxes.”
Molina agrees. He said the lost revenue hurts small businesses that are striving to make ends meet.
“To struggle like this, it’s terrible,” he said. “I have kids. I have a family. I don't want to be here until 2 a.m., but if I have to, I have to.”