Why Myrtle Beach SC hotels ban locals from staying with them

Why Myrtle Beach SC hotels ban locals from staying with them

Why

Hotels in Myrtle Beach fill the skyline along Ocean Boulevard on March 26, 2020.

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Christopher Ward wanted to book a weekend stay with North Beach Resorts & Villas in North Myrtle Beach for him and his fiancée.

The pair, who live in Carolina Forest, work in health care and wanted to have a staycation by the beach, a respite from 12 hour days at work.

But North Beach Resorts told Ward no.

The company doesn’t rent to locals.

“I tried to book online and you put your address and all that stuff in it” and the website kicked him out with the message “Sorry, we don’t rent to anybody in Horry County,” he said.

Then, he called the resort to find out why he was being blocked from booking.

“When I spoke to the receptionist, she basically just said, ‘No, we don’t rent Horry or Georgetown County,’“ Ward said. He never got a clear answer why.

Ward isn’t the only person to run into such a roadblock.

It’s not hard to find complaints on social media from other Grand Strand residents who found themselves in the same situation. Just a few weeks ago, a post by a Myrtle Beach woman about getting rejected by a local hotel garnered 75 comments on Facebook. Many who replied shared their similar stories and expressed outrage that lodging entities were allowed to do that.

Sometimes, the hotel or short-term rental agency would recommend another place to stay on the beach that didn’t follow the same rule.

But that wasn’t always the case.

Yet, despite what looks to be new outrage over the policy, many Myrtle Beach lodging entities — hotels, condos, vacation rentals such as AirBnB — have refused to let locals stay with them for decades.

It’s completely legal, too.

The state gave hotels and vacation rentals license to do it in a 1994 law.

North Beach Resorts is far from the only entity that bars locals from renting a room. The vacation rental agency CondoWorld bars locals from booking with them online.

“Yes, we have the same rule for online bookings. Most vacation rental properties do the same,” CondoWorld’s chief marketing officer Alex Husner said in a text message. “But if you call we will allow it.”

Why do hotels and vacation rentals ban locals?

Renee Wikstrom, CEO of the Coastal Carolina Better Business Bureau, said there are two main problems behind the locals ban: partying and crime.

Hotels and motels found that they struggled to deal with young people partying during spring break or prom, Wikstrom said. One big issue was people jumping from the balcony into the pool below.

The other problem is crime, particularly drugs and prostitution.

After so many incidents over the years – many of them tied to locals – Wikstrom said some lodging entities just find it easier to ban locals altogether. It’s a pre-emptive strike to solve the problem.

“When they weigh it out, they’d rather have some empty rooms than have to deal with it,” she said.

Ward said his main concern was not just that he was being blocked from staying at a local hotel.

He worries hotels could be banning particular zip codes, such as one that were majority Black, as a way to discriminate.

Wikstrom, however, said the state law wouldn’t allow that.

Any bans on residents from a certain area would have to be broader. Picking and choosing zip codes that are obviously tied to protected minority groups likely wouldn’t be allowed under the state law.

“History tells us that there is a disproportionate number of parties or large gatherings when it comes to local residents,” Brittain Resorts spokesman Steve Jones said. Because it often results in, “Bothering other guests at the resort or damage to the rooms.”

Brittain Resorts is in charge of North Beach Resorts & Villas, the property that told Ward he couldn’t stay with them. In Ward’s case, though, Jones said there must have been a misunderstanding.

Jones said there is not “hard no” policy against all locals. If a guest wants to stay at a property owned or affiliated with Brittain Resorts, they can call the resort and, if necessary, ask to speak to the general manager. Depending on the circumstance, the resort will allow them to stay. When there is a hurricane, for example, Jones said Brittain Resorts accepts locals without hesitation. Or, sometimes the Red Cross reaches out requesting help for a specific family, he said, and the company accommodates those guests.

In Ward’s case, Jones said Ward should not have been told no by the resort and said Brittain would work to figure out what happened. Jones said Brittain Resorts would also make sure staff are trained to accept guests who they believe are not up to anything nefarious.

At CondoWorld, Husner wishes they didn’t need such a policy.

“It takes a little vetting to make sure it’s not a shady guest,” Husner said in a text. “Local guests can often be using accommodations for bad things. Sad but true. This rule is common in other resort destinations as well. Of course there are many locals that would be perfectly fine. It’s too bad that some bad apples ruin it for everyone.”

A Myrtle Beach policy

In other parts of the state, it’s much less common — or even unheard of — for lodging companies to have a policy banning locals.

I had never even heard of that before,” said Chris Hadley, CEO of the Better Business Bureau for Columbia and Charleston. “This is not something that happens here in Columbia.” He was unaware of such a policy in Charleston.

The Charleston Convention and Visitors Bureau was crystal clear its response.

“We do not have such a policy in the Charleston market, and we would not be in favor of such,” Charleston Convention and Visitors Bureau spokesman C. Douglas Warner said in an email. “Our visitor industry adds to the quality of life that locals enjoy, and we would never want locals to be excluded from activities and opportunities.

As Husner said, Myrtle Beach hotels are not alone in banning locals.

But that doesn’t put several questions to rest:

Why do hotels and vacation rentals in Myrtle Beach feel a blanket ban on locals is the only solution to handling the bad guests problem?

Hotel parties, prostitution and drug crimes exist in every city. Those cities deal with those issues without banning locals. Can’t Myrtle Beach hotels do the same?

In fact, plenty of people come to Myrtle Beach for the purpose of partying.

It’s common, especially during the spring, to run into groups of college students partying in Myrtle Beach for spring break or Greek life events. Why is partying seen as an exclusively local problem?

“It really frustrated me, the fact that they couldn’t even give … a reason why,” Ward said.

North Beach offered to connect him with another resort that does allow locals.

But the experience left Ward with hard feelings.

“Knowing their stance. I would never stay there now. I just don’t understand why they would decide to set up in a town, then don’t let people live in that same town and use the facilities.”

Wikstrom said she’s sees all of these questions, too.

Some hotels get around these issues by setting a minimum age for guests such as 25.

Other hotels hire security to manage loud rooms.

Most hotels now also charge a security deposit and require a credit card on file in case of damage to the room.

One rule that can help tackle partying specifically: Some hotels put restrictions on how late visitors to hotels who are not officially registered guests can stay. For visitors who aren’t paying to stay, a hotel or short-term rental might require them to leave by 9, 10 or 11 p.m.

“At the Better Business Bureau, we want businesses to be welcoming and clean and welcoming guests in,” Wikstrom said. “For the most part, a lot of them do. But you do have some of these hotels and motels that say ‘no,’ and it’s very hard for us because they’ve made that decision and they’re not going to change that decision now.”

As of last Tuesday, Ward had yet to decide where he planned to go for his weekend staycation with his fiancée.

But unless the state’s lodging law is changed, hotels and vacation rentals can continue to ban locals, regardless of the anger and frustration it causes.

“It’s not fair,” Wikstrom said. “In the big scheme of things, it’s their property, and they can (ban locals) as long as it’s not a discriminatory thing. They can decide who visits in their rooms and who doesn’t.”

Wikstrom said she has faced the ban as a would-be local guest.

Her advice?

“Get your list of places that you would like to stay and then start calling them,” she said.

Before trying to book, “find out if they have that policy or not. It’ll save you a lot of time and a lot of energy.”

This story was originally published February 28, 2022 5:00 AM.

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Chase Karacostas writes about tourism in Myrtle Beach and across South Carolina for McClatchy. He graduated from the University of Texas at Austin in 2020 with degrees in Journalism and Political Communication. He began working for McClatchy in 2020 after growing up in Texas, where he has bylines in three of the state’s largest print media outlets as well as the Texas Tribune covering state politics, the environment, housing and the LGBTQ+ community.