For decades, Myrtle Beach has embraced its reputation as an affordable destination for playing in the surf and soaking in rays.
But the city has decided one group of vacationers is no longer welcome – the hundreds of thousands of bikers from across the country who descend on South Carolina's most popular tourist destination for two motorcycle rallies each May.
The Myrtle Beach City Council raised property taxes in early June and will use at least some of the revenue in an effort to drive the rallies out.
But the effort will succeed only if governments and residents in surrounding Horry County go along with the idea. Rally supporters who felt blindsided by the city are now planning a showdown when the Horry County Council takes up the issue.
“For me, it's a matter of sheer survival. Those weeks are 40 percent of my business,” said Ben Brown, owner of motorcycle shop B & M Custom Cycles in the heart of Myrtle Beach.
For Myrtle Beach, getting rid of the Harley-Davidson spring rally and the Atlantic Beach Bikefest around Memorial Day is a quality of life issue
“They bring three weeks of noise, congestion, reckless driving, crime, nudity, lewdness, rudeness, litter, wrecks, fatalities – they are overwhelming our capacity to deal with them,” city spokesman Mark Kruea said.
Crime increases during the rallies – especially driving under the influence, drug charges and noise violations.
Myrtle Beach officers worked nearly 10,000 hours of overtime during about two weeks the motorcycle rallies were in town.
But it's not only residents who want the rallies gone.
While motorcycle shops and some nightclubs depend on biker business to survive, the local Chamber of Commerce says business decreases sharply at golf courses and amusement centers.
Few visitors other than bikers frequent the beach during the rally – and rallygoers don't tend to take to the links. Plus, they entertain themselves without visiting as many local attractions as other tourists, chamber officials say.