BY ANDREAS BUTLER
Bike Week 2021 is on its way. The event is scheduled for March 5 to 16 and typically brings 500,000 bikers to the Daytona Beach area and Volusia County.
In January, the Daytona Beach City Commission approved allowing businesses permits for the event by a 6-1 vote after city leaders and businesses agreed to safety measures to fight the coronavirus pandemic.
For instance, the city is allowing businesses using permits for Bike Week to operate at 60% of their maximum occupancy.
“We are just restricting the amount of people inside the buildings. Our goal is to not have people crammed inside businesses,” commented Mayor Derrick Henry. “Maybe we can have some social distancing inside and outside of buildings.”
SAMA’s safety measures
The Second Avenue Merchants Association (SAMA), a non-profit organization comprised of Black-owned businesses on Mary McLeod Boulevard, organizes Bike Week activities. Historically, the second weekend of the event is busier.
SAMA will be hard at work to space things out to ensure social distancing. They have reduced the number of participating vendors to comply with safety measures.
“We are just praying for the best this year. We have to space them out. We have to take safety precautions with the virus still being out there,” said Barbara Turner-Hymes, SAMA spokesperson. “We want people to come and have a good time but also be safe.”
This year, SAMA’s Bike Week theme is “We’re Together Although We’re Apart.’’
Turner-Hymes noted, “It means a lot to us. I just hope that everyone can see this.”
SAMA knows how much of a boost Bike Week is to the local community. Turner-Hymes emphasized, “The area really needs this to be a positive economic factor. We are hopeful and being positive.”
Local businesses not affiliated with SAMA also hope for an economic boost.
Patricia Heard owns Second Avenue Plaza at 560 Mary McLeod Bethune Blvd., which also hosts biker activity during Bike Week.
“We are working on cleaning the place and keeping it sanitized. We are trying to space out as much as possible to stop the spread of the virus,” Heard said.
Moe Ali, owner of Moe’s Market at 517 Mary McLeod Bethune Blvd., moved from Detroit to purchase the business about seven months ago.
“This is our first Bike Week. I am hoping it boosts business. I’ve heard a lot of good things about it. We’re looking forward to it,” he said.
Nyoka Wilcox, owner of the nearby Kinfolks Café Soul Food Restaurant, added, “I definitely hope Bike Week brings in some revenue. Whatever business it brings will be good. We will put up a tent outside to serve more customers and practice social distancing.”
Masks, sanitizers and more
Bikers themselves are also looking forward to their special week but recognize the need for safety precautions.
“We will get together, but we must social distance, wear face masks, wash hands and use sanitizer,” responded Jason “Vic’’ Victory, president of the Down N Dirty motorcycle club. The club has chapters up and down the East Coast, including Daytona Beach, Orlando, Miami and Tallahassee.
“We’ll stick to outward gatherings instead of indoor gatherings with large groups of people,’’ he said.
Meanwhile, the mayor said businesses have been receptive to local policies.
“I think what we have in place is better than what we would have had if we had not partnered together. The businesses want to be safe and they want to be open,” Henry said. “They recognize the need to have things open with safety measures in place.”
There may still be some hard feelings from last year, especially in the Black community when the city pulled permits for Bike Week during the last and biggest night.
“There are some vendors who are still upset from last year, which might hurt us this year, but we are being positive and praying for a good Bike Week,” Turner-Hymes said.
Henry added, “Maybe some are still upset but we stand by that decision. People must remember half a million have died from this virus. I stand by looking out for the safety of the residents. We didn’t know as much about COVID as we know now.”
Bike Week crowds aren’t expected to be as large as in the past.
“Bikers are used to being in bars and clubs, but numbers have been reduced with the pandemic. I think it will be a lot of people here but not as many as usual,” noted Victory.
Turner-Hymes echoed, “I think it will be a while before we see the numbers that we used to see.”