Officials want patrons of Biketoberfest and Bike Week to know they are welcome, despite some residents' complaints about noise.
By Associated Press
Published June 13, 2004
DAYTONA BEACH - Businesses in this tourist mecca have a message for the half-million motorcyclists who roar into town every spring: You're loved, and we want you back.
The campaign by the area's chamber of commerce and visitors' bureau is designed to counter a cacophony of complaints from many in this city of 70,000 that the annual Bike Week brings with it ear-blistering noise.
"There isn't a city in the nation that wouldn't give their right arm for an event like this," said Bonnie Miller, a biker who serves on a committee that helped come up with the public relations push.
Set to be launched in time for Daytona Beach's other big motorcycle festival in the fall, Biketoberfest, the campaign will encourage bartenders to wear buttons welcoming bikers.
It also includes ads featuring a man wearing a business suit but exposing his tattooed arm with the text, "There's a little biker in all of us." They will run in motorcycle trade magazines and Web sites.
Business leaders say they hope to educate residents about how bikers benefit both the local economy and charities. They don't want to jeopardize the two staples of the local tourism industry.
"Our message is, "We appreciate your business, and we're glad you're here,' " said Kevin Kilian, a vice president of the chamber of commerce for the Daytona Beach and Halifax area.
Daytona Beach has always been a mecca for bikers, not only for out-of-towners who come to the festivals, but also for many residents who moved from other parts of the country for the numerous biker-friendly bars and stores in the community.
A 2001 study by a University of Central Florida professor showed that the biker events had a combined $744-million economic impact on Daytona Beach, by far the largest of the city's special events. That's significantly more than the $561-million generated by the Daytona 500 and the Pepsi 400 at the Daytona International Speedway, the $196-million from spring break and the $145-million from Black College Reunion, the annual gathering of college-age African-Americans.
Many of those who live near Main Street, where tens of thousands of motorcycles often create impenetrable gridlock during Bike Week, say they aren't against the bikers themselves.
"The bikers are just as welcome here as can be, but the noise is not," said Bill Lane, vice chairman of an area neighborhood association. "There is more bikers can do about the noise."
Along Main Street at the Boot Hill Saloon, a popular biker hangout where women's bras hang above the bar and bikers are prohibited from wearing certain patches to prevent fights among rival clubs, patrons praised the effort.
"I've always felt welcomed here, but if they crack down on something like this, they should close that racetrack because that's just as noisy," said Bill Baker, a biker from Kingsport, Tenn., referring to the city's famed speedway.
"Any time you get a quarter-million motorcycles together, you're going to get some noise," said Tom Guest, who operates Choppers World, a Main Street motorcycles parts and accessories store.
During this year's Bike Week, police issued 504 tickets for muffler violations, punishable by a $44 fine, and 24 notices to appear in court for the misdemeanor offense of revving the engine while not moving. That offense is punishable by a $500 fine or 60 days in jail, although most violators ended up paying $103.
By comparison, 359 muffler violations were issued and a single engine-revving notice were issued during the same time in 2003.
From his Harley-Davidson store on Main Street, John Craig noticed police officers issuing more citations than usual for "loud pipes" on motorcycles and women exposing their breasts.
"People come here to have a good time and spend money," Craig said. "And then when it costs them money, they don't feel welcome."
City officials recently have been trying to clean up the area's image, backing a multimillion-dollar transformation of several blocks of the city's oceanfront to appeal to a more upscale clientele. Upscale retailers, high-rise time-shares and resort hotels have replaced mom-and-pop motels and T-shirt shops.
The clean-up effort has included attempts to limit rowdy behavior at spring break and Black College Reunion through a campaign that Mayor Yvonne Scarlett-Golden launched. The campaign asked visitors to follow a code of conduct and placed garbage can sleeves emblazoned with "It's all about respect," around the city.
The mayor hopes to extend the "respect" campaign to the biker events and is considering proposing an ordinance requiring mufflers on motorcycles.
"We've got to make residents be able to accept that Daytona Beach is a place where bikers are extremely interested in coming," Scarlett-Golden said.