If you find yourself in need of a coffee or an adult beverage as you travel through Myrtle Beach this summer, the airport may have just what you need.
Myrtle Beach International Airport could soon be home to a new Starbucks as well as a beer and wine bar, to be named Salt & Tide, according to plans presented to Horry County Council members Tuesday. The airport expects the Starbucks and Salt & Tide to open by Memorial Day Weekend, the start of the summer travel season.
It’s a sign of the airport’s post-pandemic rebound as more visitors are expected to the Grand Strand this summer, airlines have announced new direct flights, and the airport put its federal coronavirus-relief money to use.
Pending approval from the Horry County Council, the county’s airport department is expected to sign an agreement with the company Paradies Lagardère, which partners with companies around the world to put their stores, products and brands in airport concourses.
According to plans for the two establishments, Starbucks will be built on the mezzanine between concourses A and B, while the Salt & Tide bar will be built between gates A6 and A7, at the far end of that concourse.
The Infrastructure and Regulation committee of Horry County Council gave preliminary approval to the plans Tuesday, meaning the project could earn final approval by the full County Council in about two months.
A project years in the making
The Starbucks-plus-wine-and-beer-bar combo has been years in the making for the Myrtle Beach airport, and suffered a significant setback due to the coronavirus pandemic as air travel dropped dramatically.
In 2019, the county had entered into a similar agreement with the company HMSHost, which also places businesses and retail brands in airports. Airport Director Scott Van Moppes said the company was forced to shutter operations nationwide, meaning plans to open an airport Starbucks in Myrtle Beach were stalled.
HMSHost pulled out of a 2019 deal to build and operate the Starbucks and wine and beer bar in July, airport spokesperson Ryan Betcher said last year.
But at a Nov. 10 meeting of the Horry County Council Economic Development Committee, Moppes told councilors that, despite pandemic setbacks, the Myrtle Beach airport would move forward on construction of the Starbucks and wine and beer bar, and was looking for a company to operate the establishments.
As part of the deal, HMSHost would have kept most of the revenue from the operations, while paying the county a percentage. With HMSHost pulling out when it did, the airport was left with an almost-built sit-down bar and a “coming soon” sign in front of the Starbucks.
Nevertheless, Van Moppes said, the airport would front the cash to finish building the coffee and wine and beer bars as a means to attract a new concession operator to move in and run the two businesses. The county would recoup the cost by taking a percentage of the sales once the ventures are up and running, Betcher said. Airport officials hope to have a new concession operator in place by the end of the year, Betcher said.
“We’re just going to kind of help them along with it and expense it,” Van Moppes said last year. “It’s really near completion.”
The agreement will also likely net a profit for the airport, according to a copy of the agreement with Paradies Lagardère. Once 1 million people board an airplane from MYR, according to the deal, Paradies Lagardère will pay Horry County an $85,000 base fee or 6% of all sales up to $1.9 million, whichever is greater. If the coffee shop and bar exceed $1.9 million in revenue in a year, Paradies Lagardère will pay Horry County 10% of sales.
Before pandemic halted travel, the airport saw more than 1.2 million people in a year board an airplane, county records show, and airport officials expect that number to grow as more people are itching to travel. In an example scenario, if Starbucks and the bar generate $2 million in revenue after the millionth person gets on a plane, the company would owe the airport $124,000.
New direct flights
The number of people coming through the airport could increase, though, as three airlines have announced in recent weeks that they’ll offer new direct flights to Myrtle Beach from a number of Northern cities.
Frontier Airlines said recently it would provide direct flights to the Grand Strand from Buffalo, New York; Portland, Maine; and Providence, Rhode Island.
United Airlines announced direct flights between Myrtle Beach and Cleveland, Milwaukee and St. Louis, while Southwest Airlines announced direct flights to Baltimore, Chicago, Nashville, Dallas, Pittsburgh, Atlanta, Columbus, Indianapolis, Kansas City and St. Louis.
Airlines have said they’re seeing increased demand as more people get vaccinated in the United States and federal health officials say it’s safe to travel again. Betcher said Tuesday that the airport expects the Starbucks and bar to do well.
“These are kind of the two concepts or types of concessions that we get a lot of feedback and questions from passengers on,” said Betcher, who presented the plans to council members Tuesday. “The airport staff is fairly optimistic these will be well-received by the traveling public as well as the employees in the airport.”