By Paul Gable
“It still amazes me that with tourism being one of our state’s best industries city & county councils want to shoot themselves in the foot by running people away from Myrtle Beach. I am a former truck driver and being so I have traveled all over this wonderful country. When I would stop at places from Maine to the Upper Peninsula of Michigan to the Gulf Coast all who rode motorcycles would ask after seeing I was from South Carolina ” How do I get to Myrtle Beach”. I can’t tell you how many times this happened. The draw is amazing! The monies this generates for our great state can’t truly be calculated, both for Myrtle Beach & the state in general. Do they realize how many people return to our state after just traveling through it? The “Great State of South Carolina” from the mountains to the sea is beautiful! Why do you want to run off our best commercial asset?”
The above was a comment by “David a. Horta” on our last story about the Harley Davidson Bike Rally. He states the obvious – the bike rallies introduced many tourists to Myrtle Beach and brought a lot of money into the local economy.
We are told, however, members of county council who oppose the bike rally will make one more attempt at limiting vendor permits to five days at next week’s regular meeting of county council.
We are further told that limiting vendor permits to five days would seriously damage small, local businesses that depend on bike rallies for a significant portion of their income each year. Vendors and bike rallies go hand in hand in drawing tourists.
Those businesses depend on revenue generated during bike rallies to pay their taxes, insurance, fees and other administrative overhead for the year.
There is no doubt the noise and congestion associated with the bike rallies are considered a problem in certain areas of the county. However, problems often present opportunities
The “Take Back May” movement, led by current county council chairman Tom Rice before he got into elective politics, was successful in limiting bike rallies within the Myrtle Beach city limits. That small group of “movers and shakers” in Myrtle Beach saw opportunity in limiting the bike rallies.
This was easily maneuvered within the city because of the “at-large” election system that results in five of the seven council members living within several blocks of each other on the north end of the city, while the south end of the city essentially has no representation on city council. The small businesses in the south end depend more on the bike rallies for this needed revenue.
The movement was considered a success within the city limits, but a failure in the unincorporated areas of the county.
County council, with 11 council members elected from single member districts, has better representation of very diverse groups. Rice, who claims to be pro-business, was put forward for county chairman in the 2010 election cycle and is now being supported as a candidate for the 7th Congressional District, by these same “movers and shakers”. A simple scanning of his campaign disclosure forms proves this.
At Rice’s instigation, county attorney Arrigo Carotti drafted the county ordinance to limit vendor permits for the bike rallies to five days. A confused vote during last week’s Planning Commission gives Rice one more shot at getting his ordinance passed next week.
Why is this so important?
We have heard over the last several months of very strange business license audits of certain small businesses in Myrtle Beach. Such audits have included demands, by city officials, for financial statements and other financial records well beyond the norm for simple business license renewals.
Are these same businesses considered “targets of opportunity” by the “movers and shakers” of the Take Back May movement? Will further limitation of bike week revenue essentially make them takeover targets for pennies on the dollar?
We don’t know for sure at this point. But, what we do know is the vote in county council appears to be about a lot more than reducing vendor permits by two days!