Tuesday night, Horry County Council went back and forth on the second reading of an ordinance that would change how long permits last for vendors during the Spring Harley Rally.
In the end, council approved an ordinance where bike rally permits will still last seven days. Set up and take down would be restricted to 9 a.m. set up on the first day, and 9 p.m. take down on the last day. The permit cost will also be lowered and will now total $300-$500,depending on location. Prior to tonight, they were $500 and $800, depending on location. Special event permit costs are to stay the same at $250 to sign up, and $100 per day.
"We are not limiting when bikers can come and go," councilman Gary Loftus said.
Initially, the proposed change was to cut down the permits for special events and vendors from seven consecutive days to five, including setup and take down.
The discussion, which has lasted over a month, started after Myrtle Beach Harley Davidson moved the dates of their Cruisin' the Coast Spring Rally from May 14-20 to May 18-28, the same weekend as the Memorial Day Atlantic Beach Bike Fest.
While discussion from the council was limited, more than 20 speakers lobbied council for more than 45 minutes Tuesday. The entire council chambers was filled to standing room only.
Billy Abbot, a former Harley Davidson owner said, "What I am concerned about is the problems that the rally has brought in later years. In one time, we didn't have the complaints. I am going to encourage council to encourage and even demand the law enforcement or other agencies, to make it possible for the riders to get along with the citizens of Horry county."
John Springs, a south end resident said, "the bikers and the rallies are two different things when it comes to the economy. For every business that profits a dollar, there's a business that suffers a dollar. The bike rallies were something we put up with for a number of years."
Sissy Rutherford on behalf of CASA, said "Through this economy our budget has been cut, significantly 60%. The bikers have helped raise money in the past. These vendor permits would help us raise money as well. Don't take our last options away from us, one of the few options we have left."
Eric Rutherford said, "Bikers are the community so when we are told we can't come because we're bikers, that to me is simply discrimination. Most of the arguments we have heard tonight is not permit related. The problem isn't vendors, the problem isn't the length of the event, the problem is the officials aren't managing the event."
Horry County Council will have to vote on the change one more time before it becomes official. That will be at an April 3rd meeting.
The special events permits for this year's event will be issued for May 14-20. That's a Monday through Sunday. The county will begin selling permits for the Spring Harley Rally mid April.