Ormond Beach and local businesses are faced with challenges during Biketoberfest, but they also see the weekend's value.
BY MATT MENCARINI | STAFF WRITER
For four days every October, Ormond Beach, like many cities in the area, is blanketed with the rumbling of motorcylces and masses of leather-clad tourists.
Biketoberfest, and its annual migration of bikers, changes the landscape of the city. But there are benefits to this population boom, according to some local businessowers.
“I think its very important to the area,” said Mandy Rossmeyer-Campbell, who runs the marketing and promotion for Destination Daytona and Daytona Harley-Davidson, as well as sits on the board for the Ormond Beach Chamber of Commerce. “It’s a boost for all businesses, not just our business. The restaurants, the hotels, the motels, they all benefit.”
But the benefit, for some, sometimes comes with a cost — mainly, congestion, and a constant outdoor engine hum.
“(But) I didn’t have a single complaint this year,” Mayor Ed Kelley said. “Over the last seven years, I think a lot of that has improved, with traffic flows and being more prepared for it.”
Much of the preparation and handling of the increased traffic is dealt with by the Ormond Beach Police Department, which had roughly 18 officers on the roads during peak hours.
“Our main issue during these events is just the traffic,” Lt. Kenny Hayes said. “We don’t have the type of venues that Daytona (Beach) has, or the areas to the North of us. ... Our main issue is traffic.”
Hayes said it’s the gridlock at intersections along Granada Boulevard that can lead to accidents, when bikers attempt to weave around traffic, in between lanes, and people in cars don’t see them.
He added there were only two traffic accidents involving motorcycles this year, and there weren’t any serious injuries in either.
“(We) try to keep the traffic flowing for regular citizens,” he said, adding they use more officers on motorcycles during Biketoberfest. “Sometimes, we have to manually regulate the traffic signs, at Beach Street and Ridgewood (Avenue along Granada Boulevard), where it can get backed up.”
But all those extra motorcycles and people in the area need to eat, sleep, drink, get gas and entertain themselves somewhere.
Henry Galvis, owner of Maria Bonita, 195 W. Granada Blvd., said that, while he did lose some of his regular business, because locals don’t go out as much during bigger events like these, he still sees value in Biktoberfest.
“I think it’s good for the area,” Galvis said. “It’s something very good for the whole entire area.”
Maria Bonita isn’t the only restaurant that saw a shift in patrons, and a decrease in sales.
“It does good for the dinner crowd,” said Ryan Langlois, a manager at Caffeine Bistro and Wine Bar, 49 W. Granada Blvd. “But not for the nighttime drinking crowd. They’re out drinking somewhere else.”
That somewhere else is likely on U.S. 1, or along Main Street in Daytona Beach, at places like the Iron Horse Saloon, 1068 N. U.S. 1, which general manager Steve Fritze says not only has live music, but also vendors selling all kinds of leather and bike products.
“We have music from noon to 2 a.m., probably eight or nine different bands a day. (We) probably have 120 band slots a week,” Fritze said, adding that he runs a full 10 days during Biketoberfest, just like Bike Week, instead of the four days Daytona Beach allows.
He can do this since the Iron Horse is in unincorporated Volusia county, he said, not Ormond Beach.
“I employ 180 people for those 10 days and they make a lot of money,” he said. “I have people that have worked for us for years that take time off, vacation time, to work here for the events.”
Fritze said he works closely with the Volusia County Sheriff’s Office to make sure traffic in front of the Iron Horse flows, and is also safe for his customers to cross.
And the Sheriff’s Office and county are willing to work with the Iron Horse because it helps bring in tax revenue.
“What we have said all along is that the revenue sharing during those times should be increased, in Daytona Beach, as well,” Kelley said when talking about events like Biketoberfest, Bike Week and Race Week.
“I think that would be one thing that we could look at, (to) prove the true value of special events like that.”
But it’s not just the city that would like to see more from Biketoberfest. Businessowners wouldn’t mind seeing the weekend extended, either.
“I don’t think it would hurt to be longer,” Rossmeyer-Campbell said. “It takes just as much effort, money and time to set up for four days as it does for 10 days. I do think the area could definitely benefit from an extended Biketoberfest.”
Galvis said he wants to find ways to bring in more bikers next year, and during Bike Week, not only for added revenue but to offset some of the local business he’ll lose.
While the parties with a financial stake may push to get more out of Biketoberfest, the draw for the bikers will remain the same.
“There’s plenty of people to go around,” Rossmeyer-Campbell said. “There are places to ride (here), and that’s what the benefit is.”