May Bike Rallies Issue Rises Again
By Paul Gable
The May bike rallies were a topic of discussion during the Horry County Public Safety Committee meeting Thursday when county Public Safety Director Paul Whitten disclosed the county lost approximately $190,000 policing the two rallies this year.
The amount of the loss drew raised eyebrows from several committee members who called for a full discussion before county council.
That the bike rallies cost the county money should be no surprise after the contentious debate over vendor permits earlier this year.
Starting with reducing permit days, working through reduced permit fees and a final decision to leave things alone, just before the Harley rally was scheduled to begin, caused much confusion among biker enthusiasts.
While permits remained the same this year, there were considerably less vendors who attended the rally, leaving a shortfall in county revenue.
According to Whitten, the county lost approximately $75,000 on the Harley Davidson rally and approximately $115,000 on the Atlantic Beach bike rally.
Most of the county’s bike rally revenue comes from the Harley rally as vendor permits sold by the county for the Atlantic Beach rally range from several to none each year. Virtually all of the vendor permits for the Atlantic Beach rally are sold by the town.
Overtures to raise the permit fee by the county were raised Thursday as a means of closing the shortfall. However, such a move will probably only further reduce the number of vendors attending the rally and not result in added revenue.
A small, but vocal group of local residents has been trying to completely eliminate the May bike rallies for several years. Among other things, they believe eliminating vendors will eliminate the rallies.
The group was successful in virtually eliminating rally participation in Myrtle Beach, but participation in unincorporated areas of the county has remained strong.
Many small hotels and other businesses rely on income from the rallies to have a successful year while most of the annual revenue to Atlantic Beach businesses comes from its Memorial Day Bikefest.
The city of Myrtle Beach attempts to replace lost May revenue through its promotion of Veterans Appreciation Days and Coastal Uncorked have failed miserably.
It remains to be seen what, if any, changes will be proposed to full council, but the annual bike rally debate seems ready to erupt again.