Beaufort News

Stricter rules pushed for tour operators

Beaufort officials want to rein in the on-going skirmish between the two carriage companies operating downtown.

Tour operators and guides who are deliberately destructive, malicious or dishonest would lose their license to work in Beaufort under a recommendation that would be added to the ordinance governing city tours.

Southurn Rose Buggy Tours and the Sea Island Carriage Company currently operate downtown.

"We did not specify (how long they would lose the license)" Heather Winch, chairwoman of the city's Tourist Management Advisory Committee, said during Tuesday's city council workshop. "I'm thinking when hell freezes over would be a good time."

The committee recommended initial changes to the ordinance that council approved on first reading last week. The committee recommended additional changes Tuesday night based on comments last week by operators, council members and residents.

The change piggybacks on the "three-strikes" plan introduced in the original recommendations in which any operator or guide who violates three city laws within a year will lose the right to operate.

Although that is technically a one-year suspension, it can essentially put a tour operator out of business.

Carriage operators bid for work every five years, and if they stop operating for 60 days, forfeit their slot. That allows another company to bid for it. Unless a slot is available when the suspension is up, suspended operators are out of luck.

The committee Tuesday recommended that operators lose their license if they:

  • tamper with another company's equipment
  • mark (waste) spills where no spill has occurred
  • manually put manure on the street to require clean-up
  • deface or alter any city-owned property or equipment
  • remove or modify the contents of the "Spills" log kept in the downtown kiosk
  • Hope Able, the city police officer who works as tour vehicle coordinator, said Tuesday she has either documented such incidents or had reports of them occurring. She has been in the position for about a month.

    The new recommendations also suggest making bus tour operators bid for the right to work rather than simply apply for a license.

    Evelene Stevenson, owner of Spirit of Old Beaufort tours, fought that idea.

    "If I'm put out of business at the end of the year because I didn't pick the right number for the bid, then I can't recoup my investment," she said.

    A final vote, which could come as soon as next week, is needed before any changes are made to the ordinance.

    Follow reporter Erin Moody at twitter.com/EyeOnBeaufort

    Related content:

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    Beaufort City Council continues tourism talks

    Tourism-reform process not open enough, carriage companies say

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