Horry County vendor numbers retreat; Fewer bikers also expected

The county’s Public Safety Department has toned down its preparations for this year’s rally based partly on the decrease in vendors. Public Safety Director Paul Whitten said the county will not open an operations command center during the spring rally as it has in previous years.

“Our planning is substantially scaled down based on our estimation of what rally participation will be,” he said. “We have contingency plans in place if something does arise, so that we can react to that quickly and efficiently as needed.”

County officials are looking at the reduction of vendors as an indication that fewer bikers will be attending the rally this year. the attendance in 2009 dropped significantly, partly because of the economy and partly because of a new set of noise ordinances and a helmet law passed by the city of Myrtle Beach. Overall, Horry County is receiving about $57,000 less in vending permit revenue this year. that money is filtered into the county’s general fund budget, but Bourcier said the budget department had budgeted less money than last year for vending permits in anticipation of a smaller attendance.

Several venues that normally bring vendors to the rally had no permits listed at their addresses as of Wednesday afternoon, including the former Irongate Saloon, Biker Design, Inlet Square mall, Hooters and Myrtle Beach Speedway. Teak Collins, whose family owns the speedway, said he had vendors last year, but not enough people came to the events at the location off U.S. 501.

“It wasn’t too good of a turnout, so we decided to go more the family route this year. We will have monster trucks out on Friday and Saturday night, the 14th and 15th of may,” he said.

“You can’t make everybody happy all the time, but majority rules, and this is what the majority seemed to want. It hurts your pocketbook. the race track and [Second Avenue] pier have been in my family for almost 40 years, so I grew up in the tourism business. you keep on rolling; you can’t run and hide.”

Myrtle Beach Mall, which had 39 permits last year, had 13 issued as of Wednesday and was waiting for a few others to be approved, said mall spokesman Matt Morris. he said the mall’s management company said the vendors are a good fit for the mall’s mission of retail entertainment and bring customers into the other shops at the mall. the drop in numbers has to do with the general drop in attendance at the rally, but the company will continue to invite vendors to the property, he said.

Barefoot Landing had about 30 vendors signed up as of Wednesday, but promoter Mike Shank said he expected about 35 to be approved before the events started. he said he was able to offer cheaper rates to the vendors this year because the duration of vending was cut from 10 days to five days at Barefoot Landing.

Other businesses said they were seeing an increase in vendors over last year including several bars that cater to bikers during the rally such as Suck Bang Blow Original, named after the way an engine works, and the Beaver Bar, both on the south end of the Grand Strand.

The south end attracted many bikers who were looking for a way to avoid the new ordinances in Myrtle Beach. the Beach Harley-Davidson dealer in Shallotte, N.C., is also seeing an increase in business this year over last year, which was the first year the dealership hosted rally events.

“You know what, it’s real funny; the vendors called me. I didn’t really have a whole lot of plans to do vendors, and they were calling me,” said Leslye Beaver, owner of Beaver Bar.

“We’re getting vendors now that aren’t as small as mom and pop vendors, which we miss tremendously, but you have that medium-sized vendor that is coming back. They’ve been to other rallies, done well, and they can afford to come back. I think that’s a good sign.”

Horry County vendor numbers retreat; Fewer bikers also expected