After about three weeks of uncertainty, Atlantic Beach officials decided Saturday night to host the town's 29th annual Bikefest, but will impose new restrictions this year.
Discussions with Myrtle Beach, Horry County and North Myrtle Beach about the Bikefest's future will continue, officials said. But for this Memorial Day weekend, they increased vendor fees and made other changes in hopes of bringing a financial lift to their small, heavily indebted town.
Among this year's rules:
Vendor fees have been raised an average of $500 each - to $1,000 for retail, $1,500 for food and $3,000 for alcohol.
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"Absolutely no cash" will be accepted for vendor licenses, said Councilman Donnell Thompson, who wants to keep strict accounting records and led the discussion of the changes.
Property owners who want to allow vendors on their lots must pay the town a $200 permit fee - an increase from last year's fee of $100. If they have been asked to tear down derelict buildings and have not complied, they will be denied vendor permits.
All entertainment and events must be approved by the town staff; there will be no Bikefest committee or outside management as in years past.
"We're going to control all our expenses right here at this table," Thompson said. "The folks sitting right here today are going to run Bikefest."
Last year, the town limited its expenses to three areas - police support, portable toilets and trash cleanup - and netted about $30,000. With the new fees and reducing costs further, Thompson said he hopes the town will make $150,000 this year.
As Myrtle Beach seeks to rid itself of the congestion brought by May's Bikefest and the Harley-Davidson spring rally, the city and other surrounding governments had offered Atlantic Beach a wide variety of aid options in exchange for considering an end to its promotion of Bikefest. Councilman Jake Evans said the other governments understand the financial importance of Bikefest to Atlantic Beach, and they all still agree on the need to improve the town and expand its tourist draw beyond the festival.
"Of course, we do want to move beyond that," Evans said.
Thompson, Evans and Councilwoman Charlene Taylor voted for the new rules over opposition from Mayor Retha Pierce, who said she supported the festival but argued with Thompson over the changes. She said the decision will come too late for some vendors and accused the other council members of attempted deal-making at the expense of the Bikefest attendees.
"Where do you come off doing a one-man show when you're dealing with the public?" Pierce asked Thompson.
"I think it's unfair to shove things down the citizens' throats."
The audience of about 10 town residents, however, were vocal in support of the changes. Patricia Bellamy said she has run a food booth before, and the vendors will recoup their fees quickly.
"If you have more professional vendors who are willing to pay $1,500 or $3,000 and we get 50 of them in here, the town is going to make its money," Bellamy said.
Josephine Isom and John Sketers, two of the three candidates for the town's vacant council seat, also supported the decision.
"Myrtle Beach is not going to be issuing vendors' licenses, so they're going to be on this end," Isom said.
"It's an opportune time for Atlantic Beach," Sketers agreed.
Read more about the May bike rallies and view photos from last year's events at TheSunNews.com
Read more about Atlantic Beach at TheSunNews.com