Laconia officials expect Bike Week will be kept to a dull roar

  • Just about every parking space on Lakeside Avenue in Weirs Beach is taken early Wednesday afternoon. There will be no special on-street parking for motorcycles for the upcoming Motorcycle Week, and city officials believe that will prevent the area from getting overcrowded. Michael Mortensen—Laconia Daily Sun

  • Just about every parking space on Lakeside Avenue in Weirs Beach is taken early Wednesday afternoon. There will be no special on-street parking for motorcycles for the upcoming Motorcycle Week, and city officials believe that will prevent the area from getting overcrowded. Michael Mortensen—Laconia Daily Sun

Laconia Daily Sun
Published: 8/13/2020 2:50:10 PM

Call it Laconia Motorcycle Week lite.

City officials the event that begins in a week will attract far fewer motorcyclists than in the past, and those who do come will find much less to do. COVID restrictions for bars and restaurants will be strictly enforced. Special outdoor activities will be virtually non-existent.

That was the message Laconia Mayor Andrew Hosmer, City Manager Scott Myers, Police Chief Matt Canfield, and Fire Chief Kirk Beattie delivered at a news conference Wednesday. They were trying to assure the public that, because of the special restrictions that will be in place, the rally will not turn into a super spreader event for the coronavirus pandemic, although that cannot be 100 percent guaranteed, officials conceded.

Unlike previous Motorcycle Weeks, the officials pointed out that vendor booths, outdoor entertainment, and beer tents are being banned this year, and so bikers will find fewer reasons to congregate in Weirs Beach which traditionally has been the rally’s epicenter. In addition, motorcycle parking will not be permitted in the center of Lakeside Avenue, Weirs Beach’s main drag.

“We’ve greatly reduced the capacity of what there is to do,” Myers said.

Crowds will be limited by the seating capacity of restaurants and bars, which have to follow state COVID-19 regulation regarding social distancing and the wearing of face masks, he explained.

Police Chief Matt Canfield said he expects smaller crowds due to the limited amount of parking. In past Motorcycle Weeks only motorcycles could park along Lakeside Avenue. This year, however, bikers will have to compete with cars for spaces.

“Go down there any afternoon and you’ll see every parking space is taken,” Canfield said. “There’s just not going to be a lot of room for motorcycles.”

Private parking lots in The Weirs which operate throughout the summer will be allowed to continue during the rally. But pop-up lots are banned under the city’s no-vendor rule, Myers said.

While acknowledging there was no “foolproof method” on how to hold Motorcycle Week in the midst of the pandemic, Hosmer said the steps that have been taken were “evidence-based decisions.”

Motorcycle Week is traditionally held in mid-June. But the City Council voted in May to postpone the nine-day event for at least two months because of the high number of COVID-19 cases in the state at that time. Four weeks ago the council voted that the rally, which is promoted by the Laconia Motorcycle Week Association, could proceed, but without pop-up vendors, outdoor music concerts, or other activities that draw crowds.

Hosmer said the state Liquor Commission’s plan to “saturate the area with enforcement” would prevent bars and restaurants from getting crowded.

Under current COVID regulations, eating and drinking establishments are required to keep tables and barstools at least 6 feet apart, and patrons must wear face masks whenever they are moving about. Servers and other employees who have contact with customers must wear masks at all times.

Those food and beverage businesses found to be violating the regulations risk having their liquor license suspended.

Laconia police along with the state Liquor Commission enforcement personnel will be visiting every liquor license holder in the city to inform them of the strict requirements and will be regularly policing establishments during the rally.

“Our role is education,” Myers said of the heightened emphasis on enforcement due to COVID-19. “But we will have our eyes wide open.” He said the state and city would not hesitate to “hit violators in the wallet.”

Hosmer called on businesses to be leaders in ensuring compliance.

Myers acknowledged that some who have contacted his office or other city officials feel the state and the city have been too slow to reopen the economy, while others feel the pace has been too quick.

“I believe most people are in the middle and appreciate the due diligence” the city has exercised, he said.

Myers said media coverage of the Sturgis Motorcycle Rally, with crowds of motorcyclists walking shoulder-to-shoulder, most without face masks, was creating anxiety locally.

”I assure you that our footprint will look like nothing like in Sturgis,” he said.

A number of steps are being taken to get motorcyclists and other visitors to follow standard COVID precautions. The state is about to launch a social media campaign called "Don’t Go Viral," warning people against becoming lax about COVID safeguards. He also said signs will be going up to re-emphasize the need to keep socially distant and wear face masks when around others.

These articles are being shared by partners in The Granite State News Collaborative. For more information visit collaborativenh.org. 

 

 

 


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