People in the business community had mixed reactions Wednesday to the news of a campaign among Atlantic Beach Bikefest attendees to boycott the city next year.
Some Bikefest participants, who stayed in Myrtle Beach over the Memorial Day weekend, were infuriated over enforcement efforts that included a traffic loop, extra police presence and barricaded roads city leaders say were needed to keep everyone safe.
Some vowed never to return, opting instead on a plan to spend money in beach towns north of Myrtle Beach in order to hit the city they said mistreated them where it would hurt most – “in their pockets.”
“The move for 2017 is to boycott the city of Myrtle Beach. Move everyone to Atlantic Beach, North Myrtle Beach, Cherry Grove, and the surrounding areas, and to not spend a single dime in the Myrtle Beach city limits,” said Clarence Middleton, moderator of www.blackbikeweek.us and its corresponding Facebook page, on a GoFundMe site he set up for the boycott campaign. “Let's bankrupt Myrtle Beach!”
Never miss a local story.
I don’t think they can bankrupt the city.
Max Alon, owner of NY Pizzeria
Business leaders doubted the move would bankrupt Myrtle Beach.
“I feel like they can do whatever they want to do. I don’t think they can bankrupt the city,” said Max Alon, owner of NY Pizzeria at 706 N. Ocean Blvd.
Business is business, he said.
“It was a good weekend before they came. It’s going to be a good weekend after they came. It doesn’t matter,” Alon said. “We work very hard that weekend. But I’m sure it will be fine. Somebody else will come.”
But the temporary absence of Memorial Day weekend customers that crowd the 8th Avenue Tiki Bar next door, which was full of patrons mostly in town for Bikefest this year, may hurt at first.
“As a business guy, yes, it will hurt business,” said Gil Reibenbach, general manager at the 8th Avenue Tiki Bar. “But, where I come from, I come from up north and Memorial weekend is a big family weekend. … It’s not about bikers.”
He says he loves the bikers and the business they bring, but he doesn’t care for the stigma or the trouble that seems to haunt that weekend.
Reibenbach said some of his employees had parked near the FountainBleau Inn and looked to him for a ride home when their cars were locked behind crime scene tape early Friday morning after a fatal shooting at the hotel.
“I love the weekend. I look forward to the weekend. I make money and that’s my end goal at the end of the day. I don’t care who you are,” he said. “The problem is I always look towards the safety of my guests, my customers and my staff.”
And if patrons are too afraid to walk to their cars, he said, that can scare off business, too.
We welcome any visitor that respects our community and obeys our laws, and given the number of visitors who have regularly expressed their displeasure with the antics related to some Atlantic Beach Bikefest attendees, we don't expect any such boycott to have a long-term impact on our local tourism industry.
Brad Dean, president and CEO of Myrtle Beach Area Chamber of Commerce
Middleton said the goal for next year is to avoid spending money in Myrtle Beach to send the city a message, but he said he felt bad for the businesses that would be hurt in the process.
“For every boycotter, there are numerous travelers looking for a safe, enjoyable, family-friendly experience,” said Brad Dean, president and CEO of the Myrtle Beach Area Chamber of Commerce. “We welcome any visitor that respects our community and obeys our laws, and given the number of visitors who have regularly expressed their displeasure with the antics related to some Atlantic Beach Bikefest attendees, we don't expect any such boycott to have a long-term impact on our local tourism industry.
“The transition to a new base of visitors might not happen overnight, but given the significant national travel volume during Memorial Day Weekend, we don't believe it would take long for families to return.”
Mickey James, president of the local NAACP chapter in Myrtle Beach, said the city has been trying to push Bikefest attendees out.
“The city has really continued to move forth with an effort to drive these people away,” he said. “I think they are relentless … with the 23-mile loop.”
Myrtle Beach initiated the 23-mile traffic loop in 2015 to ease traffic congestion along Ocean Boulevard that officials said led to street parties and problems in 2014, when three people were killed and seven injured in eight shootings over Memorial Day weekend.
James said it took him six hours to travel the full loop, noting the traffic remained congested.
The city has really continued to move forth with an effort to drive these people away.
Mickey James, president of the Myrtle Beach NAACP chapter
“It’s just backing the boulevard up, backing up the entire city,” he said. “Where some would suggest it’s making a difference, it’s not.”
Unless the difference is deterrence of a group he says the city doesn’t want here. James applauds the group’s efforts to boycott Myrtle Beach.
“They don’t need to come back to Myrtle Beach,” he said. “They’re not welcome in Myrtle Beach. They need to boycott.”
Some business leaders are looking forward to the crowds they say will come in their place.
“Memorial Day weekend is one of the most heavily traveled weekends of the year, but due to the problems created by some reckless individuals who don't respect our community or obey our laws, Memorial Day weekend in the Myrtle Beach area is not currently a family-friendly experience,” Dean said. “We should be awash in red, white and blue, celebrating our true American heroes amidst parades, picnics and backyard barbecues.
“The additional police presence and 23-mile traffic loop are necessary to ensure the safety of our residents and visitors and, hopefully, help us restore Memorial Day weekend to what it once was.”