LACONIA — The cost of doing business as a vendor at Motorcycle Week is going up.
The City Council this week voted to increase the rent for 14 spaces on the boardwalk owned by the city and leased to vendors during Motorcycle Week from $1,250 to $1,500 for the nine-day event.
Originally, the 10-foot-by-12-foot spaces were rented for $2,000, but in 2011, when demand for the spaces slackened, the council reduced the rent to $1,250.
In a memorandum to the council, City Manager Scott Myers reported that private property owners at The Weirs charged significantly higher rents. Thurston's Marina rents 10-foot-by-15-foot spaces for $1,800. On the lot that once housed the water slide, 12-foot-square spaces rent for between $1,500 and $3,000 depending on their location. At Crazy Gringo, 10-foot-square spaces rent for $1,800 while space of the same size between the Weathervane Restaurant and Weirs the Beef rent for between $800 and $2,500.
Nevertheless, Councilors Ava Doyle (Ward 1) and David Bownes (Ward 2) urged the council to temper any increase with an eye to attracting new vendors. Doyle recalled that during a forum on the future of the rally earlier this year, many speakers remarked that "There's nothing to do." She suggested a more diverse mix of vendors would improve the event. Bownes offered that a "modest" increase of 5 percent, or $62.50, would not be unreasonable.
Mayor Ed Engler reminded the council that the $450 licensing fee the city charges vendors for the entire event has not changed since it was introduced in the early 1990s.
Councilor Bob Hamel (Ward 5) noted that the economy is improving and offered a motion to increase the rent on the 14 spaces by $250 to $1,500. With Doyle and Bownes dissenting, the motion carried four-to-two. At the suggestion of Councilor Henry Lipman (Ward 3), the city manager was granted some discretion to negotiate the rents if he anticipates the spaces might go begging. Myers assured the council he would seek its advice before entering any any rental agreements.
The rents on six 10-foot-by-12-foot spaces on Weirs Boulevard remained unchanged at $550, or $2,000 for one 12-foot-by-75-foot space. Likewise, the six 10-foot-by-12-foot spaces at the Lakeport Fire Station will continue to be rented for $250 each.
Charlie St. Clair, executive director of the Laconia Motorcycle Week Association, told the councilors that the small increase in rent would be a deterrent to vendors in light of the desirability of the location on the boardwalk. At the same time, he recommended steps be taken to improve the lighting along Lakeside Avenue during the rally, which vendors and visitors find inadequate.