By Ruben Lowman
The Town of Atlantic Beach made the decision on Monday, June 6, to cancel its annual motorcycle rally and pass an ordinance requiring the use of face masks in public places.
The event, officially named “The Black Pearl Cultural Heritage and Bike Festival” but commonly referred to as “Black Bike Week”, attracts hundreds of thousands of visitors to the Grand Strand every Memorial Day, when it has been held since 1980. Town officials previously rescheduled the bike festival for Labor Day, as a result of the effects the coronavirus pandemic has had on the area.
Mayor Jake Evans explained that the town is just following the guidelines passed down by medical officials at the forefront of combating the virus in order to protect and safeguard the town and its residents.
“As a governing body that is the best thing to do. It’s evident that people need to be wearing masks and that is what we’re going to do in our town.”
Evans said Atlantic Beach’s finances will not be significantly affected by the cancellation. “Probably not a whole lot, we’ll be able to survive,” the mayor said. “We’ll be fine.”
Town manager Benjamin Quattlebaum said the structuring of the yearly budget does not include the projected profits from the Bikefest, and as a result, the town will not have to make any adjustments to compensate for its cancellation at this time. The current climate surrounding the area and the uncertainty of potential vendors forced the town to make the pragmatic choice.
“By this point, two months away not having any firm commitments from any of these vendors, it’s just not prudent for us to get out there and speculate for what it’s going to be like Labor Day,” Quattlebaum stated.
The town also followed the example set by other municipalities in the area, including North Myrtle Beach and Myrtle Beach, in passing an ordinance requiring the use of face masks or coverings when inside public places.
Councilwoman Josephine Gore, who disclosed that she tested positive for COVID-19 in June and has recovered after being in quarantine, said the town is trying to protect its residents and visitors amid the surge in positive cases in the area over the past month.
“I think we’re doing everything in our powers that we can to keep the town safe,” Gore said.
Similarly to the other municipalities along the Grand Strand who approved mask mandates recently, Atlantic Beach’s will require customers and employees of retail businesses, including barber salons and nail salons, as well as all restaurants, to wear a mask over their nose and mouths while indoors. Anyone who has trouble doing so because of health or religious reasons is exempt.
The ordinance when into effect this Tuesday, July 7, at noon. It will automatically expire in two months unless terminated prematurely by the issuance of another ordinance.
“Anything we can do to stop the spread of COVID-19, that’s what we need to do,” said Councilwoman Glenda Williams. “The masks are now mandatory in the majority of the states and we wanted to comply and make sure that it was mandatory here.”