AB council votes to end contract with Bikefest firm

January 10, 2007 

The Atlantic Beach Town Council has dumped the company that lost $89,000 managing last year's Bikefest, just weeks after it voted to pay the company more to run the upcoming rally.

Council members voted unanimously Monday to cancel a contract with Entertainment Consortium Inc., which was gearing up for the upcoming bike rally.

Documents that the company provided when it requested funding from Myrtle Beach showed it lost money, and subsequent interviews showed that the company would not receive the money it said it would.

The firm's owner, Joe Grant, could not be reached for comment by press time Tuesday.

Without the Entertainment Consortium contract, Atlantic Beach officials now must figure out how to pull together the people and resources needed to run the bike rally.

Grant, a lobbyist for the city of Columbia, and a few others, started Entertainment Consortium specifically to run the festival. Grant is the company's only remaining employee.

Grant has said he would be successful with the festival this year because he has had more time to prepare for it and to advertise. Also, he said bikers were unaware last year of a new $10 fee to enter the festival, which was a major problem that would be fixed.

Grant said he had hoped to get more funding this year through government grants and more lucrative sponsorships.

The company had applied to local governments for a share of a local tourism tax, arguing that the small town bears most of the festival's costs while attendees stay at hotels and eat at restaurants in other cities.

Committees for Myrtle Beach and Horry County that make funding recommendations to their respective councils said the festival should receive far less than it requested.

Tom Leath, city manager of Myrtle Beach, said he would not recommend giving any money to the festival.

In December, Atlantic Beach Town Council voted to amend the contract to raise the amount of money paid to Entertainment Consortium once old bills were paid.

Councilwoman Sherry Suttles, an outspoken critic of Entertainment Consortium, said she made a motion on Monday to suspend the contract while the town looked into the legal ramifications of canceling the contract and recruited a committee to run the festival.

She said that motion was defeated. Council instead agreed to to cancel the contract immediately.

Councilwoman Charlene Taylor said Grant made promises that he could get funding through his connections in the state capital, but he only got a portion of that money.

"He said everything was on target," Taylor said. "He said everything was there. Evidence didn't prove to me that it was there."

Grant received $25,000 from the state for last year's festival, though he insisted that he expected to raise $50,000 more. He also was optimistic that the state would grant a bigger portion of this year's $100,000 funding request.

Council members said they only got drips of information about the finances, and that the town pushed forward with the company even after it was clear it did not make money its first time around.

"It's just sad that leaders don't have the proper vision, that we waste time and money for the people that we're supposed to represent," Councilwoman Retha Pierce said.

Entertainment Consortium planned to spend about 60 percent more on this spring's festival than last year.

The company did not pay itself for last year's work, Grant and the councilwomen said. It owed the town nearly $50,000 toward an income guarantee, plus tens of thousands of dollars in other bills.

The Memorial Day festival has attracted hundreds of thousands of people to the historically black town, nicknamed the Black Pearl.

By the numbers

2006 Bikefest expenses | $246,000

2006 Bikefest receipts | $158,000

Money still owed to local businesses | $27,300

Entrance fee for Bikefest 2006 | $10

Proposed 2007 Bikefest budget | $398,000

Bikefest attendees | estimated at 200,000 to 400,000 over the years

Vote to cancel Entertainment Consortium's contract | 5-0

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