Is Killing the Harley Rally the Goal

By Paul Gable

Horry County Council will vote Tuesday night on second reading of an ordinance to reduce bike week vendor permits from the current seven to five days.

Combining the reduced days with wording in the ordinance that allows the county to stipulate which five consecutive days the permits will be valid for brings the very real possibility that vendors will not be selling on weekends. Making the permits valid from Monday through Friday cuts out the traditionally highest sales days for vendors and could go a long way toward significantly reducing attendance at the Harley Davidson rally.

This appears to be the ultimate goal of those pushing the ordinance, led by council chairman Tom Rice. The real question is why.

Why would Rice, who has made jobs the main focus of his 7th Congressional District campaign, support an ordinance that hurts business in the county?

We have heard from many small business owners (restaurants, small motels, etc.) who plan to be at the council meeting to speak against the ordinance because of the extreme negative effect it will have on their respective businesses. Many of those businesses are located south of the former Pavilion site.

Is it possible the hope of killing the rally is not about the rally at all?

It isn’t really that long ago that former Chamber president Ashby Ward was extolling the virtues of the Harley Davidson rally, saying how many of the rally attendees were doctors, lawyers and successful business executives. He also consistently mentioned how those same rally attendees came back in the summer with their families, in the fall for golf and in the winter for shag weekends.

Has this changed so much in the intervening years since the late 1990’s?

Could this be about small businesses who depend on the rally and the ensuing repeat business to provide a significant portion of their annual revenue? If these businesses ultimately fail, not too far of a stretch according to some of the owners, their property could then become available.

Is this really about large development interests getting prime land for pennies on the dollar?

That may sound too Machiavellian for many of you to swallow. However, too many politicians, both in office and those professing to be candidates by the end of this month, are talking about ultimately killing the Harley Davidson rally for it to be pure coincidence.

When the push was on for Myrtle Beach to kill the rally, Rice and some of those business interests led the charge to get it done. Now, as county chairman, he is at the forefront again.

Is the council vote really about quality of life for a minority area of the county or is it about future corporate development interests at the expense of today’s small business owners?