LAKE OZARK, Mo. — The annual September event that brings tens of thousands of motorcyclists to Lake of the Ozarks and critical inflows of revenue for businesses coming off the busy tourist season, Bikefest is set for Sept. 15-19, but bikers will find some big changes this year.
The city did not issue a permit for open containers, so alcohol consumption will be restricted only to private businesses. And, perhaps even more significantly, the center lane down the Strip, traditionally packed with parked motorcycles, will not be available for parking this year.
Why? Lake Ozark Mayor Dennis Newberry says no one asked the city for permits. In recent years, the city has typically granted those two things for Bikefest.
Lake Ozark Police Chief Gary Launderville says he thinks that’s because of how publicly he opposed the idea. A gunfight between rival biker gangs on July 15 killed one man and injured four others, and made national news. In the days that followed, the clubhouse of one of the gangs was set ablaze, as well as the home of the man whom authorities say fatally shot one of the biker gang members, Blane Curley, in the July 15 gun battle. After the shooting, support waned for the weekly “Bike Nights” held on the Strip during the remainder of the summer, and Chief Launderville expressed concerns about September’s Bikefest. “You get that many bikes down there and get some of these groups that come down there, and you don’t know what’s going to happen,” he told LakeExpo.
Launderville also pointed out that whoever requests the open container and center-lane parking permits is also required to sign on the insurance for the event. “No one stepped up to take on the added expense and liability this year,” he said.
Newberry says this incident points to a bigger problem: the city ordinance requires event organizers to go to the city for permission for things like open container privileges or center lane parking, every single time they have an event, even for events that happen every single year on the same weekend. Newberry says that process is unnecessary and ends up creating a hindrance for businesses, which he thinks the city should be supporting. He has proposed changing the ordinance to allow future events to be automatically approved for these kinds of things, as long as an initial application is filed and the nature of the event and its organizer doesn’t change.
But he says currently other city leaders are opposed to that idea, and he does not think such an ordinance change would clear the board of alderman.
For the Bikefest event around the corner, Newberry worries that because attendees are so accustomed to parking in the center lane, they will park there this year anyways. But Launderville took a harder stance. He noted the Bikefest website (LakeBikefest.com) tells attendees there will be no center-lane parking, and he said large signage will be displayed up and down the Strip warning bikers not to park in the center lane. He says if they do anyways, a tow truck will haul them off, and that will send the message.