Atlantic Beach to reassess future of Memorial Day Bikefest

"As a part of the town's finance committee, sometimes you have to reassess where you are," said Atlantic Beach Mayor Pro-tem Carolyn Cole.

For 32 years, the Town of Atlantic Beach has held its annual Memorial Day weekend Atlantic Beach Bike Fest. But at the town's February 6th meeting, council and the town's residents will consider if the their most popular event is profitable enough to continue.

"Everything should be on the table," said Cole. "It's hard to have a conversation about cancelling Bike Fest because there is no central organizer. People will still come to the Grand Strand. But the record does not show that the town is making money."

The town estimates 250,000 people showed up at last year's rally. Town records show the town made a profit of less than $20,000, said Cole.

"When you are down to your profit closer to $20,000 and you're still paying money on the back debt, you're not making anything," said Cole.

The decision to cancel the event is not final, but it will be considered, she said.

She expects the announcement to be difficult for some to hear.

"What we have a tendency to do in Atlantic Beach, if it's not what we want to hear, we'll say someone cooked the books. But if people are saying the money is being made, then the people who are saying that need to tell us where the money is."

The annual Bike Fest does bring in revenue to the town's businesses, but it's squeezing the town's revenue, said Cole.

"Maybe there is some things we can do to assist the businesses. But it looks like the town can't afford it. What we can do to help the businesses is a different story," said Cole. "We need to think about what's best for Atlantic Beach year-round. We can no longer say we are living and dying on Bike Fest because we are dying on the bind on Bike Fest."

This announcement comes after Myrtle Beach Harley Davidson decided to push back the dates of their "Cruisin' the Coast" bike rally to include Memorial Day weekend.

Cole said Atlantic Beach was never approached by Myrtle Beach Harley organizers to talk about a change in dates that would overlap the two events.

Atlantic Beach's former town manager, William Booker, says it's irresponsible to even consider getting rid of the bike rally because the entire town depends on that money.

"If there is some consideration for getting rid of the Bike Fest, then I'm curious to see what will be brought in to see what takes the place of the money that bike fest generates."

Booker says when he ran the event last year the town made $67,000 profit.

"Records will show that the profits that were reported were actually made. The revenue was accurate. The expense records are accurate. And as a result the net profit is accurate," Booker said.

Atlantic Beach Councilwoman Windy Price says those numbers don't match the records the town currently has. "The revenue that was reported that came in through the bank statements was $18,000, and I found that stunning."

She says she understands the importance of the event to the town, but it needs further discussion. "Bike Fest is not something one person is going to do away with. But we have to have those conversations to see how we can make it better for Atlantic Beach and the Grand Strand as well."

Atlantic Beach's town hall closes at 2 p.m., so we were not able to officially request copies of the Bike Fest financial records. We're hoping to access that information Friday.