laconia

People pack Lakeside Avenue in The Weirs during the 2017 Motorcycle Week. (LACONIA DAILY SUN FILE PHOTO)

By RICK GREEN, The Laconia Daily Sun

LACONIA — Beer tents and vendor spaces will be allowed to fill to capacity at this year’s Motorcycle Week rally, the Laconia City Council decided Monday night, opting to avoid stronger, pandemic-related restrictions.

Instead, the city will work to ensure best practices are followed to avoid the spread of COVID-19, including sanitizing stations, lifting up tent walls to improve airflow and requiring 25 feet of separation between entertainers and the crowd.

Businesses will get a copy of state COVID-19 guidelines when they get their permit to operate the tents.

“If they can’t comport with universal best practices, we want to know why and what they plan to do in its place,” Mayor Andrew Hosmer said Tuesday.

Chairs and tables will be put in beer tents with adequate spacing to ensure people will be able to sit down and practice some social distancing.

“The idea is to be seated unless going to the service center or the bar,” Hosmer said.

Hosmer said he and Councilor Henry Lipman will work with City Manager Scott Myers and other city staff with the goal of having a successful and safe Motorcycle Week.

“This is going to be a banner Motorcycle Week,” Hosmer said. “There is pent-up demand to come to the Lakes Region. Innkeepers have indicated they are sold out. There’s an awful lot of excitement as people are starting to feel better about safety and the pandemic.”

Councilor Anthony Felch said some of the recommended best practices could restrict normal social activities.

“We are trying to make them follow the CDC guidelines even though they are supposed to be voluntary,” he said. “I can get having to have some tables and chairs and wanting them to sit down and be a certain distance from the stage. But people are going to want to be up and dancing and mingling about.”

Charlie St. Clair, executive director of Motorcycle Week, said there will be plenty of opportunities to mingle.

“I’m very pleased with the way things have worked out,” he said. “The council has to watch out for everybody. They’ve got to look at everything.

“The numbers for the virus are going down and more people are vaccinated. People will need to do their own things and be conscious about wearing masks when needed and washing their hands.”

Last year’s Motorcycle Week was scaled way back because of the pandemic. There were no vendor booths except for non-profit groups. Food, drink, and entertainment were provided only at existing establishments.

Councilor Henry Lipman said a certain level of caution remains in order.

“A no holds barred kind of event where we just let everything go is totally inconsistent with what every other outdoor event is experiencing,” he said. “I do hope we can still have a modicum of consideration in the community for those who are vulnerable. Young children can’t be vaccinated and some adults can’t be vaccinated even if they want to.”

Gov. Chris Sununu ended the state’s mask mandate last month. Industry-specific requirements ended May 7 in favor of a set of recommended best practices, which include continued use of masks and social distancing in some situations.

Motorcycle Week will be held June 12-20.

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