Myrtle Beach anti-biker laws continue to stir
1:00 pm
Thu October 1, 2009

Myrtle Beach anti-biker laws continue to stir divide

If you vacationed in Myrtle Beach last May, it was probably a lot quieter. A new motorcycle helmet law curbed turnout for two biker rallies that have divided the town in recent years.

Myrtle Beach officials expect turnout to also decline for this weekend's annual fall biker rally. That has some residents happy, and some business owners bracing for lower revenues.

WFAE's Dominic Ruiz-Esparza has more:

South Carolina state law only requires motorcycle helmets for bikers under 21.

Last February, Myrtle Beach went a step further. It passed a mandatory helmet law for all bikers. The city also passed tailgating restrictions and banned revving of engines. The goal was to discourage people from attending the annual Black Bike Week and Mytrle Beach Bike Week rallies last May.

The strategy worked. Attendance dropped substantially.

And the law's been cheered and jeered.

Rock Carter owns a restaurant and bar in neighboring North Myrtle Beach. Carter says the dozen or so anti-biker laws in Myrtle Beach undercut the economic bounty he had come to expect.

"We're struggling bad enough in this economy now. When there's bad information put out, people aren't going to come and spend their money, even the ones' that's got some money to spend. They may be spending less, but at least they're here and they're spending something," Carter says.

But there are also business owners within and outside Myrtle Beach who support the ordinances.

Willie Lee owns a prescription drug and gift shop in Murrells Inlet. Lee says his customers stop coming during biker rallies, even if the events attract fewer people.

He says an incident Wednesday morning is perfect example of why his customers stay home. One of his employees saw a woman on the side of the road who was naked from the waist down.

"50 weeks out the year, that will put someone in jail. Two weeks out of the year, it's tolerated, and it's not right," Lee says. "It's a double standard and you can't raise your children on double standards."

Myrtle Beach officials are bracing for 10 to 20-thousand bikers this weekend. Still a lot - but that would be 50 to 75 percent down from last year.

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