Myrtle Beach Closes its Doors to Rallies

It’s official, the city of Myrtle Beach is now off limits for motorcycle rallies.

City officials have established a Web site called Myrtle Beach Biker Info myrtlebeachbikerinfo.com that spells out the reasons why the South Carolina town no longer welcomes rallies.

On the opening page, mayor John Rhodes explains that the town is not anti-biker or anti-motorcycle, it’s just that the popular rallies had grown too large and lasted too long, adding that they “even kept visitors away from Myrtle Beach, and that’s not good.”

“This was a difficult decision. Myrtle Beach welcomes visitors year-round, but the giant motorcycle rallies simply grew too large,” Rhodes writes. “Our staff, residents and businesses strained to keep up with these single-focus events. It may surprise you, but our economy is much healthier with a fully diversified visitor base, instead of a concentration on one or two extremely large events.”

The decision effectively kills the Harley-Davidson Dealers Association Spring Rally and the Atlantic Beach Memorial Day Bikefest.

To help support the now-official ban, the city enacted a number of new laws and regulations aimed at motorcycle enthusiasts and their machines. These include a helmet law with a $100 fine, a ban on loud exhausts, allowing only two bikes per public parking space, a curfew for those under 18, and limits on where trailers and oversize vehicles can be parked on public streets — the latter ostensibly aimed at people trailering in their motorcycles.

Other new laws include one that people to have a photo ID for checking into hotels, another that makes drinking in public illegal, one aimed at loitering in parking lots a ban on using “parking lots or landscaped areas of any business next to road or street for chairs, coolers, parties, drinking or food service.”

In a section on the Web site addressing frequently asked questions, the city states that it isn’t targeting any specific rally or its attendees and that the ban is year-around, not just in May. “The city of Myrtle Beach doesn’t want to play host to any motorcycle rally.”

Another answer addresses a question about the city being anti-biker, stating that “The city welcomes individual motorcyclists 365 days a year, as long as they obey all local and state laws. However, the city doesn’t welcome the huge motorcycle rallies and the problems they bring.”

In December a judge declined to stop the city from enforcing the new laws. U.S. District Court Judge Terry Wooten denied a request for an injunction filed by event promoter Mike Shank and Harley-Davidson of Myrtle Beach to prevent the city from enforcing 15 amendments and ordinances dealing with special events, noise and helmets.

In November a county circuit court judge declined to issue an injunction against the city’s helmet law requested by Myrtle Beach residents Carol and William O’Day.

Neither lawsuit has been dismissed, however, and a second federal lawsuit filed on behalf of Doghouse and Steel Horse Saloon owner Don Emery, The Master’s Club, www.myrtlebeachbikeweek.com and other business owners, has not yet been heard.

No other hearings have been scheduled.