MYRTLE BEACH -- Motorcycle rally supporters have fired the opening salvo against the city of Myrtle Beach by hiring nationally known attorney Suzanne Coe of Greenville, who said she plans to file a lawsuit to try to stop the city from enforcing the three anti-rally ordinances that took effect this week.
"This is where the fireworks begin," said Coe, who represents several businesses, including The Dog House, the Masters' Club and Myrtle BeachBikeWeek.com.
She is perhaps best-known for successfully representing Shannon Faulkner, the first woman to win the right to attend The Citadel, the formerly all-male military college in Charleston.
Coe said she intends to file her lawsuit Monday morning in federal court in Florence and ask a judge to issue a temporary restraining order to prevent enforcement of the city's noise-ordinance amendment, the nui- sance-law amendment and the new ordinance that restricts people from using Myrtle Beach as the focus when advertising unpermitted events such as the bike rallies.
"It's a First Amendment issue," Coe said Friday. "People are afraid to speak, to advertise or hold events for fear they will be charged with crimes."
Myrtle Beach city councils have wrestled with the rallies for years, as the Harley-Davidson spring rally grew from four days to 10 days, and Atlantic Beach Bikefest crowds spill over into Myrtle Beach and turn Ocean Boulevard into a street party Memorial Day weekend.
This year, the City Council took concrete steps toward eliminating the traffic, noise, garbage, reckless driving and lewd acts it says typify the two weeks of bike rallies after a college student was shot to death in an argument over a parking space during Memorial Day weekend, even though police say the shooting was not related to the bike rally.
Bolstered by hundreds of local residents demanding action, the council raised property taxes by 3 mills to pay for the efforts.
Coe contends the newly adopted ordinances and amendments interfere with interstate commerce because many businesses that participate in the motorcycle rallies in Horry County are from out of state. She also said the new laws are vague, especially when it comes to defining nuisances.
"How do you draw the line between what's a rally and what's just an event?" she said. "This is basically just a hammer on businesses."
City Manager Tom Leath had not heard about Coe's intended lawsuit Friday afternoon and said the city doesn't usually discuss pending legal matters.
But challenges to the 15 ordinances the city passed last week to curb the effects of the May motorcycle rallies -- which 300,000-plus people typically attend -- are not unexpected, he said.
"If we are sued on any grounds, we will vigorously defend ourselves," Leath said.
Mayor John Rhodes said he also was not surprised.
"When you have this many ordinances, someone is going to be unhappy," he said. "I guess it's all part of doing business. I think we all knew a possibility. This is what courts are for -- to help settle differences."
Leath said if and when the lawsuit is filed, the city will have a time limit in which to respond. If a hearing is scheduled, he said, the city will attend.
Coe said this first lawsuit targets only the three ordinances and amendments that took effect this week. Twelve other ordinances go into effect in 90 days, and Coe said she also will challenge those.