Talks have begun to try to save Bridlington’s annual scooter rally, which is thought to be worth £1 million to the town’s economy.
Organisers announced earlier this month that after 2018, the event will only return to the East Coast every other year – but work has started to get that move overturned.
Key figures say they are hopeful of winning over the groups who put on the rally – but only if Bridlington pulls together.
One of the key reasons for the decision is said to be that town centre pubs are putting on live music, which is taking custom away from the organisers’ official entertainment events at The Spa. Andrew Aldis, general manager at the Spa, told the Free Press: “Over the past few years, other licensed premises in the town have been competing more and more with the organisers’ events held at the Spa.
“Every ticket sold for a rally event at Bridlington Spa goes towards securing the event for the future – after all, the rally operates on a commercial basis.
“This year saw an unprecedented amount of parallel activity being offered to the town’s visitors at no charge and this has resulted in the uncertainty about the future of the rally.
“We realise that there’s no rule or law to prevent businesses competing, but the results are clear cut. If entertainment is offered free in the pubs and bars of the town and there’s significantly reduced income being generated by the organisers, then the event will die.
“Additionally, if the attendance at the Spa is low then it will lack a viable atmosphere and this will discourage visitors from attending in future years.
“If the rally is not here then the scooterists won’t come. Contrary to comments on social media, the scooters will go where the main event is and if that’s north west England then that’s where they’ll go.”
Managers at the Spa have already held discussions with Bridlington Tourism Association and they want to meet representatives from local pubs in the forthcoming weeks.
The BTA backs the Spa’s stance and its president Bob Hillery said: “All the pubs put on entertainment so nobody goes to The Spa.
“There is a chance we can get the rally back every year after 2019 but only if the town pulls together.
“That means not putting on entertainment in the pubs after 9pm so people use the official events at The Spa. We knew everybody wants to make money, but they’ll make nothing at all if it stops coming here.
“This is a massive event. It’s great for the town, the shops, the cafes, the pubs, the accommodation providers and even local people who don’t have a business but like to see all the wonderful scooters on display.
“We need to pull together to sort this problem out.”
The rally has been a regular fixture in Bridlington’s calendar for more than a quarter of a century and attracts hundreds of sccoter enthusiasts from all over the country.
Part of a national programme of events, the evening entertainment events on the Friday and Saturday evenings are independently organised on a commercial basis by VFM Ltd and the trade show on the Saturday by the Lambretta Club of Great Britain.
Bridlington Spa said it receives a hire fee for the use of the venue and is reimbursed for operational staff time. Management time is provided free-of-charge.
Mr Aldis said: “The management of Bridlington Spa froze their charges to the organisers in 2009, demonstrating our commitment to an event that is so important for everyone.
“In addition to this, we extended our offer to include display parking on Pembroke Gardens and this year, a road closure of South Marine Drive to better allow the public to view the extraordinary machines ridden to town.
“The organisers remain delighted with Bridlington Spa’s facilities and service and our relationship is as good as it ever was.”
However, he said comments and rumours on social media risked souring that relationship and threatening the future of the Bridlington event for good.
When the decision was announced, the organisers said it would “fulfil a geographical need for a national event in the North West” and “establish a change in the national calendar”.
That has led to a number of debates online which Mr Aldis says are potentially damaging.
“We are in the process of negotiating the future with the organisers,” he said. “This is being hampered by disrespectful comments being made on Facebook. We need to all
remember, these people have brought the town a weekend of prosperity every year for 27 years.
“They deserve our understanding of their situation and not our contempt.
“Whilst speaking of Facebook and other social media platforms, and we hate to sound like Donald Trump, but we’re seeing an enormous amount of fake news.
Comments like “greedy council hike rally’s fees” and “council demands £38,000 for use of the Spa” are complete invention.
“There is no plan to increase the organiser’s costs – they are fixed until 2020 at the earliest.
“Comments like “who needs the organisers” and “we can do it without them” are unhelpful at best and severely deal-limiting at worst.
“My recommendation to the town would be to wait for the true facts to emerge before debating false statements on social media.
“We need to work together to resolve this situation and we believe it’s still possible to get a positive outcome.
“We believe there is a bright future for this event but it needs us to work together.”