Lifeguards in Myrtle Beach will now have one job – life guarding.

The Myrtle Beach City Council on Tuesday agreed to amend the franchise agreements with Lack's and John's beach services specifying the lifeguards will stop renting chairs and umbrellas while still being expected to make sure folks in the water and on the beach are safe. The two beach service companies can use other employees to rent chairs, umbrellas, footrests, floats and soft boogie boards.

The beach service companies signed a seven-year contract with the city that is due to expire in 2024.

Prior to the amendment, lifeguards set up a row of umbrellas and chairs before their shifts began around 8 a.m. and were responsible for renting the equipment to beachgoers throughout the day. Both John’s and Lack’s charged customers $45 daily for two chairs and one umbrella.

The city granted the franchises to Lack's and John's for exclusive rights to rent beach equipment within each’s designated areas in exchange for water safety services.

“It’s the right thing to do,” Myrtle Beach City Councilman Gregg Smith said.

The franchise agreement lists Lack's sections of the beach from the southern end of the city limits to the center of the pier at 14th Avenue North. It also includes the center line of 82nd Avenue North to the northern end of the city limits.

John’s designated beach area is from the center of the pier at 14th Avenue North to the center line of 82nd Avenue North.

The franchise agreements hold the companies responsible from April 15 through Sept. 30 from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. The companies are also responsible for having an emergency response team nightly from 6-7 p.m.

Lack’s is required to have 10 lifeguards on duty from April 15 to the third Monday in May. John’s is required to have six lifeguards in the same time frame.

As the summer season heats up, Lack’s is required to have 19 lifeguards and John’s is required to have 15 lifeguards the third Tuesday in May through June 1. From June 2 to the third Monday in August, Lack’s must have 33 lifeguards and John’s must have 30.

From the third Tuesday in August through Labor Day, Lack’s is required to have 22 lifeguards and John’s is required to have 15 lifeguards.

As the summer season ends from Labor Day through Sept. 30, Lack’s is required to have 10 lifeguards and John’s is required to have six lifeguards on duty.

Each lifeguard must be at least 16 years old, pass a swim test of swimming 500 meters in 12 minutes, be certified in first aid and CPR, and complete a course of not less than 40 hours in open water lifesaving.

The lifeguards will not be allowed to use their cell phones for anything unrelated to their duties.

The franchise agreement states if a stand is left unattended, the stand must have a white flag with red lettering stating there is no lifeguard on duty.

The uniforms are spelled out in the franchise agreement to include gold T-shirts with navy blue letters of “Lifeguard” on the front of the shirt and the name of the company on the back of the shirt. The city’s seal is to be on the right sleeve of the tee with the company logo on the left sleeve. The male lifeguards are to wear navy blue swim trunks with “Lifeguard” in gold on the right leg. Female lifeguards are to wear a navy-blue swimsuit with “Lifeguard” in gold on the front.

Recently, Horry County Council also made similar changes to the county's agreements with beach services.

“We know that things are different now than they have been over the years,” said Randy Webster, the county’s assistant administrator over public safety, speaking to county leaders in September.

The franchise amendments come on the heels of a verdict in a civil case brought by the family of a drowning victim. Last year, Zerihun Wolde’s family was awarded $20.7 million. Wolde’s family had sued both Lack’s Beach Service and the city, though the city was later dropped from the lawsuit.

Wolde’s fiancé and mother to his four children cited negligence that led to the 41-year-old’s death.

Court documents stated Wolde and his sons went swimming in August 2018 and they were caught in a rip current. The lifeguard on duty had not posted a flag warning beachgoers of the current. And, the documents state, the lifeguard did not respond to calls to help Wolde once he was caught in the current or when he lay on the beach surrounded by others helping him.

The jury found Lack’s was “negligent and reckless” because of the dual role lifeguards performed when Wolde was caught in the rip current.

Janet Morgan is the editor of the Myrtle Beach Herald. Contact her at 843-488-7258 or at



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