Does biker machismo fall under First Amendment freedoms? June 9, 2012 

  • More information Inside: Read more news about pending area lawsuits on Page 1C.

Horry County is making a federal case – literally – over motorcycle burnouts at Murrells Inlet biker bar Suck Bang Blow.

The county last week removed to federal court a lawsuit the bar initially filed last month in state court. That lawsuit claims the county’s attempts to ban outdoor burnouts at the bar is a violation its patrons’ Constitutional rights. Since the lawsuit deals with federal rights, the county said, it should be heard in federal court.

SBB claims in its lawsuit that burnouts are among several activities patrons participate in while “expressing their manliness and macho, as all males are prone and inclined to do to a greater or lesser degree.” The bar says a burnout is an expressive motorcycle act that is protected by the First Amendment.

Suck Bang Blow “believes that providing these expressive performances to the public is a beneficial social activity which enhances individuals’ conscious ability to assimilate,” the lawsuit states.

Burnouts – revving a motorcycle’s engine and letting its back tire spin, creating noise and smoke, while the front brake is applied – have been a regular feature of bike rally events at SBB since it opened its 3393 U.S. 17 location in 1996.

Horry County cracked down on burnouts during bike festivals last year, issuing a special event permit to SBB that limited the activity to between noon and 9 p.m. and only at the rear of the bar’s building. This year, the county issued a permit that banned burnouts altogether.

The bar obtained a temporary restraining order against the county just before last month’s rally, allowing the burnouts to continue, but its patrons’ long-term enjoyment of the activity will be determined by a federal judge.

Horry County, in its response to the lawsuit, calls burnouts a “public nuisance” and says it “is expressly authorized by state statute to abate public nuisances.” The county denies that it has violated any Constitutional rights.

A decision could come just in time for next year’s rally, with a jury trial scheduled to begin on May 6 in Florence.

Contact DAVID WREN at 626-0281.

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