Myrtle Beach tax revenues took a hit in 2009 after city officials took a stance against allowing biker rallies in city limits during the month of May, but those numbers have more than rebounded as the city launched Military Appreciation Days and the economy recovered.
Myrtle Beach City Council voted in to 2008 to take steps including a helmet law which eventually was overturned to drive the rallies out of the city because officials said the events had gotten too big.
City spokesman Mark Kruea said the two biker rallies the spring Harley-Davidson event that ended Sunday and the Atlantic Beach Memorial Day Bikefest, which begins Friday had taken up so much of May, there was no room for other events to be held during the month.
Other events could not coexist with the bike rallies, he said. Now that the rallies have moved away, the business community is beginning to see that they have the opportunity to hold events in May.
The city held the inaugural Myrtle Beach Military Appreciation Days in 2009 the first year Myrtle Beach did not allow biker-themed events in city limits.
Our military heritage was a natural fit, Kruea said. Certainly we were looking for a May opportunity that had been missed. And May is National Military Awareness Month.
We were all aware that the military got short shrift during May and Memorial Day in particular. When we saw that we would have an opportunity this was at the top of the list.
Kruea said the ability to hold other events and festivals in May may have hurt the businesses that catered to bikers such as some hotels, bars and restaurants but other city businesses, such as retail and entertainment destinations, saw their business improve.
It got to a point where people used to leave town or not leave their houses during the rallies, he said. And some businesses would shut down completely.
Kruea said residents no longer feel like they need to leave town and are able to spend money in the city. For the past few years, hotels, restaurants and attractions have offered discounts to military personnel during the month of May.
In June 2008, the last year there was an official bike rally in Myrtle Beach city limits, the city collected almost $197,000 in local accommodations taxes and almost $51,000 in admissions taxes. Businesses have until June 20 to submit May revenue numbers, Kruea said.
Tax revenue collected dropped in 2009 to about $138,000 in local accommodations taxes and about $50,000 in admissions taxes.
A thing to keep in mind is that when the city said no, thank you, to the big rallies, the worlds economy crashed, Kruea said.
In 2010, the city collected about $155,000 in local accommodations taxes and $52,000 in admissions taxes. The number increased steadily over the years and in 2013, the city collected $208,000 in local accommodations taxes and $66,000 in admissions taxes.
Victor Shamah, who has owned The Bowery in downtown Myrtle Beach for 34 years, said he saw a decrease in revenue in 2009, but that number has slowly increased as bikers slowly began to spend money in the city again.
Its a fictitious story that its not our event, he said. On paper, maybe its not in Myrtle Beach. But thats how everyone knows it. ... Theyre staying by us to go to Murrells Inlet because they dont have enough rooms. Theyre staying by us to go to Atlantic Beach.
Shamah said he loves the bikers and wishes more of them would spend money in the city again or at least that there was some type of festival every weekend. He said Military Appreciation Days have not helped him with any business that may have been lost by the bikers leaving town.
The Military Appreciation Days dont bring as much business is the rallies did, he said. But were a tourist town. I dont care one group from another one. Every weekend there should be a different event.
The Ocean Boulevard Memorial Day Parade, being held 10:30 a.m. Saturday, ends with a family picnic being held on the former Myrtle Beach Pavilion property, which is across from The Bowery.
Im not sure how well do this weekend, but hopefully the [Memorial Day] parade will bring us some business this year, Shamah said.