AFTER BLACK BIKE WEEK 2005

 

Sun, June 5, 2005/The Sun News/Dawn Bryant

No fuss at ladies-only Bikefest party        A ladies-only party featuring male dancers at the Myrtle Beach Convention Center last weekend didn't get out of hand, despite concerns about the event's sponsor, officials said.

The closely watched Strawberries and Champagne Ladies Night Out on May 28 went smoothly with dancers obeying the rules by keeping certain body parts covered, said Paul Edwards, the convention center's director. About 350 people attended.

The event, part of the lineup for the Atlantic Beach Bikefest, was sponsored by Mahogany Desires, which sells sex-related items on its Web site. That prompted Mayor Mark McBride to try to cancel the festival activities at the convention center, but City Council did not support him.

City officials, as well as the State Law Enforcement Division, monitored the event, said Pam Smith, sales director at the convention center hotel.

"It went the way we wanted it to," Edwards said. "Nothing happened that we needed to move in and stop."

Still, officials might refer those kinds of events to The Masters Club in the future.

Another party after the ladies-only event attracted 3,500 people to the convention center and lasted until about 5 a.m.

Other events at the convention center didn't go as well.

A comedy show attracted about 50 people, while a concert planned for May 27 was canceled just hours before G-Unit was scheduled to hit the stage.

Sun, June 5, 2005/The Sun News/Biker boom saps business/By Dawn Bryant

Though May is over, the debate about it - and the two motorcycle rallies - isn't.  Some Grand Strand businesses, tired of just writing off the month, plan to turn that talk into action this year.

Leaders at the Myrtle Beach Area Chamber of Commerce, which has given up promoting May to leisure tourists, plan to ask local governments to limit vendor permits during the annual rallies to four or five days, instead of the 10 days that Horry County offers.

They also plan to urge law-enforcement officers to strictly enforce the noise ordinance, as North Myrtle Beach did during the Harley rally.

"You've got some business people who have said, 'I've had enough,'" said Shep Guyton, the chamber's chairman.

On the north end, some took a small step to bring more nonbikers last month. Organizers of the Dixie Chicken fishing tournament moved the event from late June to Memorial Day weekend. Attendance didn't drop from the 400 or so who usually participate, and organizers say it was a success.

"Everything happens a little bit farther south [of the tournament]," organizer Ron McManus said, referring to the bike rally activities. "We can't let one thing run the show."

As many as 500,000 bikers converge on the Grand Strand for two rallies in May, the Carolina Harley-Davidson Dealers Association Myrtle Beach Rally and the Atlantic Beach Bikefest during Memorial Day weekend.

Some businesses love the back-to-back bike rallies, others loathe them.

Every year, some businesses grumble about "The May Effect" - the nickname for the off revenues and vacant parking spaces at their establishments. A group of business leaders formed a task force a year ago to come up with a solution but didn't find one.

"We run away from it. We don't want to talk about it," said Pat Dowling, spokesman for Burroughs & Chapin Co. Inc. "But we need to do something about it. ... The bike weeks are here to stay. Nobody has really taken up that challenge."

The bikers do spend money while they are here, though no official estimates exist.

Hotels typically do well during both events, while attractions tend to suffer. Most bikers find their entertainment riding, watching other bikers or partying - not catching a theater show or riding a water slide.

Even some businesses that benefit from the bikers long for the days when May brought vacationing families, which some say spend more than the bikers.

"I be danged if I know what to do about it," said Roddy Swaim, a broker at Dunes Realty, which oversees about 1,000 rental properties. "Everybody talks about it, but there's not much you can do about it. I have to play the hand I'm dealt."

The chamber of commerce doesn't even promote the month any more. Chamber President Brad Dean has a letter detailing the bike events ready to send to potential nonbiker vacationers who ask about visiting during May so they aren't surprised if they do show up.

"Though some may find this controversial, we don't see much opportunity to promote to families nor groups since so much of the month is dedicated to major events," Dean said. "It's safe to say Bike Weeks have become Bike Month and that doesn't leave much room for families, conventions or meetings."

The chamber sent a survey to its 2,300 members last week to get a better grasp on how business during May is affected.

A year ago, the chamber formed a task force aiming to find a solution. It didn't.

But the group wants to work more closely with representatives from the bike rallies to find ways to make the month more profitable for all businesses.

"That's where we needed to go to move forward," said Wayne Gray, a task force member and restaurant owner.

This year's Atlantic Beach Bikefest brought mixed results for the four businesses The Sun News is following throughout the season. Regular check-ins with the four businesses will show the effect different groups of guests have on the various segments of the Grand Strand's tourism industry.

During Bikefest, the hotel did well, while the restaurant, theater and attractions reported so-so or bad results, as they expected.

Hard Rock gets holiday

The Memorial Day weekend gave employees at the Hard Rock Cafe a chance to catch their breath.

The Atlantic Beach Bikefest doesn't pump up business for the restaurant at Broadway at the Beach, which plans for the lull in its budget. It actually gives workers a chance to rest in between the super-busy Carolina Harley-Davidson Dealers Association Myrtle Beach Rally and the start of the summer season.

From now on, business will edge up weekly.

"The Memorial Day weekend itself is average. It's pretty much regular business," said general manager Keith Lyons. "It gives us a chance to catch our breath for the summer."

There are several reasons why Bikefest isn't a boon, Lyons said. Broadway at the Beach doesn't have vendors as it does during the Harley rally, so bikers aren't drawn into the complex. Hard Rock made extra money during the Harley rally by selling beer from carts outside the restaurant in Broadway's Celebrity Square.

Another hurdle during Bikefest is the one-way traffic pattern on Ocean Boulevard which limits turns into town.

"It makes it more difficult to get to Broadway," Lyons said.

Hard Rock did catch a little break this year that helped edge up business a bit. Showers on the rally's final day drove some bikers to inside attractions, including the restaurant.

Theater loathes May lull

The Alabama Theatre is glad May is over.

The back-to-back bike rallies are detrimental to the live theater's business. Most bikers don't want to watch a show.

The theater at Barefoot Landing doesn't bring in celebrity performers and cuts its regular lineup. The theater didn't have any shows during the Atlantic Beach Bikefest.

"There's nothing you can do. People can't get to us," said Bob Wood, president and chief executive officer.

Even if bikers could get there easily, a stop at the Alabama Theatre likely wouldn't top their list. It was the same story during the Carolina Harley-Davidson Dealers Association Myrtle Beach Rally.

"We are a family attraction," Wood said. "Twentysomethings are not going to come to our show. They are out on their bikes."

Motel happy with business

The Atlantic Beach Bikefest brought another packed weekend for The Ocean Front Motel.

Though more attendees came in fancy cars than on bikes, they filled all 44 rooms for the three-day weekend, putting a smile on owner Bill Hamann's face. He had that same smile during the Carolina Harley-Davidson Dealers Association Myrtle Beach Rally, which also booked up the hotel.

"We were solid full [during Bikefest]," he said. "The weekend went just fine."

To prepare for the influx of bikers, Hamann washed all the rags he puts out by the lobby for bikers to use shining up their rides.

He also loaded up linens and other supplies that are typically kept at the Flagg Street annex and brought them to the main units on the oceanfront. Workers typically use golf carts to transport those back and forth daily, but the congestion during the Bikefest dictates that he bring them over earlier.

Hamann is happy with the bike business during May's back-to-back rallies. He has barely given thought to what May and Memorial Day used to bring with vacationing families. Some businesses want those nonbiker visitors to return. But Hamann had to think about it when asked.

"There are fewer families for both events because of the bikes being down here and the biker environment," Hamann said. "I don't see in the foreseeable future going back to a family-oriented situation."

And that's fine with him.

"Full is full," Hamann said. "This is good."

Ripley's holding steady

Ripley's four attractions on Ocean Boulevard managed to pull out a decent Memorial Day weekend despite the area's heavy traffic, general manager Bobby Owens said.

Sales stayed even with last year's Memorial Day period, he said. Ripley's operates the Believe It or Not! museum, the Fun Zone arcade, Moving Theater and the Haunted Adventure, all on the Boulevard, which had one-way traffic during Memorial Day.

"Other than it being loud it was pretty normal," he said.

The congestion caused by the Atlantic Beach Bikefest did create some hurdles with staff getting to work.

With so much action on the Boulevard, Ripley's stayed open later.

Attractions, theaters and amusement parks tend to suffer during the bike rallies because visitors spend most of their time riding or attending bike-related events.

Ripley's unique offerings help insulate its attractions from those market turns, Owens said.

"We have an odd and unusual product," he said. "That makes us not as sensitive."

Posted on Wed, Jun. 01, 2005/MB biker rally citations up; Horry's fall/County credits use of different tactics/By Kenneth A. Gailliard/The Sun News                  Arrests and citations in Myrtle Beach rose during this year's major motorcycle events but declined in Horry County compared with a year ago, according to police records.  Horry County police Lt. Kevin Duke credited a new law-enforcement strategy in the county for reducing the arrests in the unincorporated areas.  Myrtle Beach police made no specific changes for citywide traffic-enforcement either weekend, city police Investigator Jim Allen said.  Thousands of visitors come to the Myrtle Beach area annually for both events. Crowd estimates were not available Tuesday for the Atlantic Beach event, but estimates put the Harley rally attendance at nearly 300,000 people.  "We were going from wreck to wreck during both events," Allen said.  City police issued 168 tickets for driving more than 26 miles per hour over the speed limit during the Memorial Day weekend, and 107 tickets for the same violation during the Harley event, Allen said.  Myrtle Beach police reported 2,037 violations during Memorial Day weekend, including traffic- and non-traffic-related violations, and 1,935 during the Harley rally.  There were 1,675 and 1,546 violations, respectively, in 2004.  Allen said Myrtle Beach officers were placed in areas where speeding seemed to be the biggest problem, but a variety of traffic situations kept them busy.  In one instance, an officer was injured around midnight Sunday when he was struck by a man on a motorcycle near Fifth Avenue South at Kings Highway.  Police said that man briefly fled from officers but was caught.  Ryan Bonneau, 30, of North Charleston, is charged with assault and battery of a high and aggravated nature, reckless driving, failure to stop for a blue light, resisting arrest, driving under suspension, motorcycle overtaking and passing in a single lane, and altering a driver's license.  Citations and arrests during Bikefest totaled 454 compared with 861 last year in Horry County. During this year's Harley rally, the total was 513 compared with 1,068 last year, Duke said.  Instead of placing a few officers at designated popular areas around the county and others on countywide patrol, officers this year were assigned to stationary positions near large gatherings, he said.  For example, during the Bikefest, officers daily were placed roughly a quarter of a mile apart in the Restaurant Row area.  "When an officer is sitting in the same place all the time, people always see him there and it's a deterrent," Duke said.