Proposed Resort Bike Week Event Not Happening

OCEAN CITY – A proposed “OC Jam” event during Delmarva Bike Week looks doomed this week.

During last week’s Mayor and City Council meeting, Cliff Sutherland, proposed “OC Jam” for the Inlet parking lot to the council as a way for the resort to have an open gathering place for the public during the annual September event.

Sutherland is one of the founding members and president of Wild and Wonderful MountainFest motorcycle rally and also organizes JamFest in Morgantown, W.Va.

“OC Jam” was an attempt to replace the Delmarva Bike Week event at the Harley-Davidson of Berlin location that recently closed.

Last week, the council had some concerns over the event being held so close to Sunfest, and the possible complications involved with the premiere of Ocean City’s main event.

Due to the concerns, the council asked Sutherland to return this week in a special work session to work out details. Sutherland only had until midnight on Jan. 18 to receive approval from the council in order to proceed in his agreement with the Bennett family, former owners of Harley-Davidson in Berlin and current owners of Harley-Davidson in Seaford.

Without the council feeling comfortable in moving forward with “OC Jam”, Sutherland was unable to strike a deal with the Bennett family.

According to Susan Jones, executive director of the Ocean City Hotel-Motel-Restaurant Association (OCHMRA), the Bennett family had already extended the Sutherland’s deadline twice. The Tourism Advisory Board had been pushing the City Council to allow Sutherland to come before them prior to the end of the year, Jones said.

In the meantime, the Bennett family has been paying salaries to those who work to sell sponsorships and vendor space for Delmarva Bike Week in case Sutherland’s proposal fell through and couldn’t waste any more time.

“He [Sutherland] was definitely bummed, extremely,” Jones said.  “He was hoping to get an extension but he understands them having to move forward to fill their vendor space.”

Although Sutherland’s “OC Jam” won’t make it to Ocean City this year, there are still some sorts of confidence that Delmarva Bike Week will make it to Ocean City with an official event.

“What it means is they [Bennett family] are still moving forward in planning Delmarva Bike Week,” said Jones. “Bike Week will happen and it will be headquartered at the Seaford Harley-Davidson, Winter Place Park, Perdue Stadium, and I would imagine they would still strike a deal with Seacrets.”

Councilwoman Mary Knight said it was critical for the public to understand Bike Week will still happen, no matter this week’s news.

“I’m sure bike week is still going to have an event at Seacrets,” Knight said. “So in my mind there is still a Bike Week.”

However, with no ground zero in Ocean City for Delmarva Bike Week this year, in scale to what Harley Davidson of Berlin provided in past years, Ocean City businesses are concerned the negative impact it will cause in expected revenue.

Jones said Bike Week will still remain in Ocean City through the Seacrets location but with the other events taking place in Salisbury and Seaford may mean less occupancy in Ocean City’s hotels and motels.

Jones explained that during last year’s Delmarva Bike Week there was a decrease in room tax in Ocean City, while Wicomico County’s room tax figures increased.

“There are enough hotels in Seaford, so they will fill up before we will fill up,” Jones said.

Knight recognized the decrease in room tax last September as well.

“But it was also caused by the effects of when Labor Day fell,” she said. “I believe that the folks that stay in Salisbury realize that Ocean City is a much nicer venue, and there is a lot more to do in Ocean City.”

According to Jones, an incentive Ocean City provides is the town’s night life, compared to competing areas. But, if Bike Week participants do stay in town, they will most likely spend most of their days in Salisbury and Seaford, and then return to town to have dinner and stay the night. This would result in Ocean City losing the day time revenue, for example breakfast and lunch.

“They have so much activity at Winter Place Park and Perdue Stadium, like bands, vendors, food, so there’s a lot to keep them [bikers] there,” she said.

Jones said the Tourism Advisory Board continues to seek interested parties in keeping the event closer to Ocean City.

“I am still very open to it and I am looking forward to more discussions,” Knight said.

Knight pointed out that Sutherland not being able to make a deal with the Bennett family in time is a perfect example of why the town should have kept the Tourism Commission together.

“If the Tourism Commission was still intact, the commission would have met with all its partners [Sutherland’s group] in September,” Knight said.

The newly formed Tourism Advisory Board has worked with Sutherland, but Knight felt that since the board formed in November it did not have enough time to work out the details of the proposed event.

“Not that the Tourism Advisory Board doesn’t work but they don’t have the intricacies that we [council] have, it’s just not the same form,” Knight said.

Knight explained that certain details, such as costs, needed to be discussed further in order for the council to make a decision.

“I think it is unfortunate, I don’t think it is a dead issue,” Knight said. “I am very open to talking about it. I am concerned about that cost, and that needed to be flushed out.”

“OC Jam” would have cost the town around $135,000 and the council as well as Sutherland was not sure on how much of that cost he was willing to pay back.

“They [council] didn’t dislike him [Sutherland] or his credibility,” Jones said. “I think it opened their eyes to the fact that he is great first-class promoter and maybe they need to give him another chance.”

Jones said that a future deal with Sutherland is a possibility, but as far as 2011 is concerned Bike Week will just “roll in and roll out.”

“At this point, I still think there is a Bike Week, and to whatever involvement we have with it at this point is still in the air,” Knight said.