MYRTLE BEACH, SC (WBTW) – Thousands of tourists arrived on the oceanfront to enjoy the unofficial start of summer amid the coronavirus pandemic.
Friday night’s crowd was smaller than the typical one seen every year during the Atlantic Beach Bikefest. Fewer motorcycles were on Ocean Boulevard and rain showers late in the evening forced many people inside. Very few people along the boulevard between 8th and 12 avenues north were seen wearing masks.
There were no significant incidents along the boulevard Friday night. This comes five days after a dance party blocking most of the boulevard and two shootings that city police say involved gangs from Chesterfield County.
Even though COVID-19 pushed back Bikefest to Labor Day weekend, plenty of visitors are on the Grand Strand, trying to make the most of the weekend.
“Practice social distancing still,” said Montel Marvin, who’s from Columbia. “Don’t matter if you’re out here having fun, mask up!”
“You don’t see a lot of masks,” said Tracy Wofford, who’s from Conway. “You don’t see stuff like that, but at the same time, you really don’t need it. If you feel unsafe, stay home.”
The city says it’s expecting at least 75% of hotels room to be filled this weekend. That’s a welcome sight for businesses too, like Pasha Mediterranean Grill & Bar, which is on the corner of 8th and North Ocean.
It opened about a month ago at one of the worst times for just about any business.
“It was really tough for us because by the time we opened, this pandemic started growing and we had to shut it down,” said Ozzy Buyuk, who’s a server and bartender at Pasha.
Sam Vuran, who owns Pasha, is hoping for a successful weekend, but his restaurant is putting safety first as customers enjoy Turkish cuisine.
“We’re using the six feet rule,” he said. “You can check the tables and everything. We also have more protection like a sneeze guard and other stuff.”
Back outside, visitors enjoying their Memorial Day weekend say if you decide to go out, enjoy your time safely.
“I want to see everybody come together, have fun, not a lot of violence,” Wofford said.
“Travel with family,” said Khelci Brown, who’s from Columbia. “If you are going to travel and live your life, travel with family, but be safe.”
More than 150 officers from outside the city are with Myrtle Beach police this weekend to help traffic move pretty smoothly along the boulevard.