MYRTLE BEACH, S.C. (AP) – Businesses in Myrtle Beach are trying to lure more bikers to their stores during the spring motorcycle rally, but their efforts are meeting with mixed results.
The Sun News of Myrtle Beach reports most bikers abandoned the city about six years ago after the city took steps to drive the rallies out of the city because officials said they had gotten too big.
Motel owner Raj Pankhania said he's booked for the Atlantic Beach rally on Memorial Day weekend, but hasn't gotten any bikers this week and has just 70 percent occupancy.
Pankhania said he believes bikers still harbor bad feelings over the city's moves. One couple staying in Myrtle Beach said they wouldn't have done so in the early days after the rules were enacted.
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“We spend more money in Myrtle Beach than we used to,” said Rick Harr of Kingsport, Tennessee.
Harr said he and his wife, Lisa, are at their eighth spring rally and are staying in Myrtle Beach this year, something they wouldn't have done in the years after Myrtle Beach changed the rally rules.
In 2008, the city enacted a helmet law and a noise ordinance specifically to get rid of swarms of bikers that would take over the town for three weeks in May. The helmet law was later overturned by the state Supreme Court.
Michelle Thomson of South Dakota, who is at her first spring Harley rally in Myrtle Beach, said she had heard of what the city did and could understand how residents objected to rallies that attracted hundreds of thousands of bikers.
“We're not in the motorcycle rally business anymore,” city spokesman Mark Kruea said, adding that the city has nothing against individual bikers among its tourists.
“It's not who you are or what you ride,” he said of the city's stance against rallies. The rallies got out of hand when they got too big, lasted too long, were too boisterous and too deadly, he said.
Kruea said the city attempted to work with rally organizers to get the event manageable, but was unsuccessful.