Organizers of the fall bike rally said they hope the trend of more motorcyclists in town during the May event continues this week, as the fall bike rally officially kicks off on the Grand Strand on Monday.
Slightly more bikers than last fall are expected in town for the rally, which officially runs from Monday to Sunday, though many businesses and rally promoters advertise the rally as Wednesday through Sunday.
Lodging occupancy is projected to be between 65 percent and 70 percent during the rally, according to Taylor Damonte of Coastal Carolina University’s Center for Resort Tourism. Occupancy during the fall rally last year was about 65 percent, he said.
As of Thursday, Horry County had granted 30 temporary vending permits for the rally, said Horry County spokeswoman Lisa Bourcier. Last year there were 45 permits issued in Horry County for the fall rally, she said.
“We’re expecting something similar to last year,” Bourcier said. “We don’t anticipate seeing any more activity than last fall.”
Cruise the Loop, a 90-mile poker run hosted by bike rally website www.bikeweekmb.com, is expected to be a highlight during the week’s events, organizers said. The poker run will begin at Suck Bang Blow in Murrells Inlet, with riders making stops at Big Tuna in Georgetown, Capt’n Seaweeds Bar and Grill in Bucksport, the Myrtle Beach Speedway and The Boathouse on the Intracoastal Waterway before heading back to the Inlet, said Mark Krom, director of BikeWeekMB.com.
BikeWeekMB.com’s first Cruise the Loop was held during the May rally.
Proceeds from the poker run will be given to the Georgetown fire relief fund to benefit those impacted by last week’s fire in Georgetown’s historic district, Krom said.
“Luckily Big Tuna was spared [from damage],” Krom said. “Georgetown always puts out the welcome mat for us.”
He said the poker run will not only benefit those impacted by the fire, but widen the scope of those who may not be familiar with the Grand Strand outside of Murrells Inlet.”
“[Riding the loop] shows them there’s more than just the Murrells Inlet area, though that really is the epicenter of the rally,” Krom said.
Poker run organizers will solicit donations during the poker run to be given to the Georgetown fire relief fund, Krom said. A percentage of sales from a biker breakfast being held 6 to 11 a.m. Friday at Nalu’s Restaurant and Beach Bar in Garden City Beach also will benefit the relief fund.
SBB biker bar manager Bill Barber said he’s expecting a large rally turnout, especially since the closing of SBB Four Corners after the spring rally.
“We’re expecting an impact with Four Corners closed,” he said. “We’re going to do a lot of the things that we used to only do at Four Corners at [Original SBB] … like the different motorcycle games.”
Owners sold SBB Four Corners in December and there are plans for the building to be demolished by the end of the year, Baker said. He said there are no plans yet for what, if anything, will be built in place of the bar.
Original SBB also will feature a number of live bands throughout the week, Barber said, adding that he’s had trouble finding nearby lodging for bands that will play at the Murrells Inlet bar, with many hotels being sold out for the weekend.
Damonte said an “unusually strong” showing at local hotels and vacation rentals in September leads him to anticipate the slight increase in occupancy rates during the rally from about 65 percent last year to between 65 and 70 percent this year.
“But the biker weekends are very much weather dependant, and I’m not a meteorologist,” Damonte said.
He said hotels and vacation rentals were 80 to 85 percent full every weekend in September, occupancy rates he said are typically seen in August along the Grand Strand.
“We’ve had a very strong fall so far,” Damonte said. “It may just be what happens when there’s not a tropical storm anywhere near the East Coast.”
Bikers heading to the Grand Strand this week will have to wait until the spring to make their television debut, according to Krom. PSG Films, which produces the National Geographic Channel’s series, “Alaska State Troopers,” initially planned to film for an upcoming proposed Travel Channel show called “Party Patrol.”
Krom said PSG representatives informed him last week that they would hold off on filming until the spring rally.
“I’m a little disappointed they aren’t coming [for the fall rally],” he said. “I know the spring [rally] is going to be the biggest in years. … It will never regain the numbers that it was back in 2008, but it’s still a tradition.”
Contact MAYA T. PRABHU at 444-1722 or follow her at Twitter.com/TSN_MPrabhu.