HORRY COUNTY, SC (WMBF) - Bikers attending the spring rally could have more events to attend in Horry County this year.
"I believe that the rally has pretty much did full circle and I think there's a chance it'll be coming back stronger and stronger as it comes on," said Jamin' Jamie Keats, owner of Jamin' Leather. "It may never be what it was 10, 15 years ago, but I really think there is a new resurgence of what people want to do."
Horry County Emergency Management Director Randy Webster said the county has received a few inquiries from businesses in the Restaurant Row area in regards to the spring rally, but no permit applications have been submitted.
He said the deadline for applications is March 31 for the spring rally.
"Having more places for vendors is a possibility of more people to participate in them," Keats said. "It might spread out the rally a little bit and leave it less concentrated on places like the bars down on the south end. It might spread it out a little throughout the week. Having more places for them to come is always a good thing."
Peter Politis, a member of St. John the Baptist Greek Orthodox Church, said the church is making plans to host vendors during the spring rally.
The church already holds a Greek festival, so the grounds are equipped for this kind of event, according to Politis.
He added the organizers are looking at hosting up to 20 vendors, making the event a pit stop for bikers wanting to enjoy food and merchandise on their way to different areas of the Grand Strand.
Keats said bikers want to have various events to go to.
"To have multiple locations for them to stop along the way makes the rally fun, keeps the interest in the Myrtle Beach area," he said.
Keats said before the late 2000s, there were lots of events for bikers to go to, from Murrells Inlet all the way up to Little River.
"Business owners were a little more excited about it," he said. "They had a little more going on, bringing more interesting things to the rally."
Around 2008, he said the whole atmosphere changed.
"The mentality was shifted to negativity with the business owners," he said.
Keats has put together an event guide for Spring Rally since 1998.
"I was doing the event guide, I saw it in the events. Every business was trying to do something to attract the patrons to come to their place too," he said. "Everybody tried a little bit then when the squash came in '07, '08, '09 and all that mayhem went on as far as the county rules and stuff like that, half the business owners got discouraged."
Horry County Spokesperson Lisa Bourcier provided numbers for vending permits issued for Spring Rally since 1998:
- 1998 – 94
- 1999 – 46
- 2000 – 357
- 2001 – 464
- 2002 – 508
- 2003 – 292
- 2004 – 372
- 2005 – 373
- 2006 – 411
- 2007 – 403
- 2008 – 394
- 2009 – 146
- 2010 – 81
- 2011 – 83
- 2012 – 65
- 2013 – 75
- 2014 – 99
- 2015 – 87
- 2016 – 79
Horry County issued the most vendor permits in 2002, with 508 total. Last year, there were 79 issued.
Bourcier said Horry County changed vendor permit fees and regulations gradually to help pay for public safety and relieve congestion on the south end of the county in 2003.
"The fees were established to help offset public safety expenses, although the fees by no means cover the cost of personnel and overtime with these large events," she said.
In 1998, Horry County charged $50 for a vendor permit. In 2002, the cost was $250. In 2003, it was $700. Every year since 2009, the fee has been $800.
The county also implemented overlay vending zones to limit the number of permits sold in certain areas of the county, Bourcier said.
Bourcier also said the city of Myrtle Beach enacted the helmet law in 2008, which was overturned in 2010, and the recession also happened right around then as well.
"What I've seen over the past few years are a lot less vendors over the years, but almost little to no events that the business owners put on," Keats said.
He said the current vendor permit fee is too high for the businesses to actually profit off their event.
"We have vendors on our property too and we can't make any money off them, period," Keats said. "If I make $100 off a vendor, that's a lot of money."
Plus, he said the businesses are the ones who are attracting crowds and bringing tax dollars into the area.
"To use the dollars and say emergency services are needed, sure, the emergency services are needed, but what are we doing for the county? What are we bringing in?" Keats said.
However, he also feels the true spring rally is now returning to Horry County.
"I have a feeling the rally is going to be stronger, more people, more events, more things, more vendors," Keats said.