The Oceanfront Merchants Association says it still will find ways to host its annual Oktoberfest and St. Patrick’s Day events despite receiving $90,000 less than the group anticipated from Myrtle Beach’s Downtown Redevelopment Corp.
The events may look different – having local bands instead of national performers – or be held on a smaller scale, but OMA President Chris Walker said he thinks they still will be held.
OMA members and other business owners met Wednesday to discuss ways to move forward after the group was left reeling from an unexpected cut made by the DRC when it passed its budget last week, setting aside $173,000 for the oceanfront merchants.
Walker said he is going to work with Myrtle Beach City Council and staff to find a dedicated funding source instead of relying on money from them and the DRC.
“I’m ready to get out on our own,” Walker told OMA members. “This system doesn’t work. I’m all for self-sufficiency. My life is built on that and I’m ready to move in that direction.”
In the past, DRC has funded OMA at $260,000. OMA also receives $130,000 a year from the city’s accommodations tax revenue and another about $310,000 each year from memberships, sponsorships, business contributions and revenue from Oktoberfest and St. Patrick’s Day.
Walker said one possibility of a dedicated funding source would be to arrange it so that a percentage of the city’s parking meters – or maybe just the parking meters in the oceanfront area – go to OMA each year.
“That’s an option that makes a lot of sense,” he said.
DRC board member Ann Brittain said while she, too, would have preferred that OMA had more notice that they would receive $90,000 less than expected, there might be a silver lining.
“Look at it like the mam bird pushing the baby bird out of the nest,” she said. “It’s got to happen at some point, it’s just forcing you to do what is inevitable.”
Brittain is a partner at Brittain Resort Management, which owns resorts on the Grand Strand, including Bay View Resort, which is located in DRC’s area. The DRC area is defined as the area from Sixth Avenue South to 16th Avenue North, from the Atlantic Ocean to Oak Street and Broadway Street.
Walker stressed the need to hire an executive director, something the group has never had since it began shortly after the Myrtle Beach Pavilion closed in 2006.
“The need for an executive director grew out of our success,” Walker said. “When we just had fireworks once a week, there wasn’t a need. But now it’s budgets and marketing and events all summer.”
Walker said he will go through the budget to determine what OMA needs to pay and then prioritize the things it wants – and the St. Patrick’s Day Festival and Oktoberfest are high on that list.
Rick Sarver, owner of Boardwalk Coffee House, said he appreciates those off-season events because they’re geared toward locals.
“It draws locals down and reintroduces them to the positive things of the area,” he said. “I’ve heard people say, ‘I didn’t know it was this nice down here.’ ”
Walker said that’s one of the best advertisements for the area.
“Those are your best promoters,” he said.
Walker said OMA will hold a board meeting in the next two weeks, when he hopes the group is able to start identifying new funding sources.