Originally created 05/10/04

Businesses split on bike rallies



MYRTLE BEACH, S.C. -- Some businesses along the Grand Strand are hoping to persuade bikers to shift their annual rallies to different dates to keep them from cutting into more family oriented business in May.

Others, however, including developer Burroughs and Chapin Co. are going in the opposite direction and trying to find ways to partner with the rallies.

Businesses have struggled with how to handle May since the month shifted from a family focused kickoff of summer to a biker-dominated month.

Some love the biker dollars. Atlantic Beach businesses have their best weekend all year during the Atlantic Beach Memorial Day Bikefest week end. During the Carolina Harley-Davidson Dealers Association Myrtle Beach Rally, the Grand Strand's hotels are nearly full.

Other businesses prefer family vacationers often driven away by the rallies.

"May is not the month it used to be," Burroughs and Chapin spokesman Pat Dowling said. "But it's time to stop saying, 'Golly gee, May is gone' and start working with what you have."

Burroughs and Chapin is looking into sponsoring concerts or other events for next year's Atlantic Beach Bikefest, which historically has not brought business into the company's amusement parks or stores. The same strategy helped with the Harley event years ago, Dowling said, bringing bikers to attractions they had never attended.

"It's about evolving that into a thing where you give them something to get off their bikes for," Dowling said.

But on the whole, businesses are split on the rallies.

"It's definitely separating the economy," said Shep Guyton, chairman of the Myrtle Beach Area Chamber of Commerce. "It's good for some people but may not be good for the market as a whole."

The May business task force, created by the Myrtle Beach chamber, is kicking around the idea of changing the events' dates. "The common wisdom is that May is a lost month compared to when it was family tourists coming to town," Dowling said.

But those attending and organizing the event say they chose May because there weren't a lot of kids around. "I don't want to see Harley go away," said Mark Lazarus, owner of the Grand Prix Family Thrill Park in North Myrtle Beach and an Horry County councilman. "It's good to have the traffic in there. There's no family business here that week anyway."

Some warmed up to the idea of shifting the Atlantic Beach Bikefest to one that still would offer a long weekend as Memorial Day does. Some have pitched Labor Day weekend, which has fallen off in recent years as schools have started earlier and chopped off the summer season. "It would be better to have it in November because it is so congested on the beach with the Harley-Davidson and Atlantic Beach Bikefests so close together," said Thaxton Dixon, owner of the Riviera Motor Lodge on 30th Avenue South in Atlantic Beach. "People complain about it."