STURGIS | Police Chief Jim Bush is wary of Sturgis motorcycle rally-goers having open containers on Main Street — even if it is just for three hours on one night.
The Sturgis City Council approved a special event liquor license for the Sturgis Motorcycle Museum at one of the busiest corners in Sturgis during the rally — Main Street and Junction Avenue.
People can buy beverages in a beer garden in a parking lot to the east of the museum and will be allowed to take them into the public right of way in front of the museum from 8 p.m. to 11 p.m. on Saturday, Aug. 3, during the reveal of the new model year Indian motorcycles.
In June, the council approved closing the 900 block of Main Street in front of the museum to all traffic and motorcycle parking for the event. Then, on July 15, the council, on a split vote, approved the special event liquor license.
"It doesn't take very many people to fill up that street, and we have a lot of people downtown," Bush said. "Where they are at they will have no problem getting 5,000 people, and I just want you to know I don’t know if I’m going to be able to control it."
Bush, who has seen more than 30 years worth of Sturgis motorcycle rallies as police chief, said he's been through this sort of event before where crowds have the potential to mushroom in short order. In the 1990s, rally crowds watching a WCW match spilled over from the Lynn's DakotaMart parking lot to an adjoining busy street.
"They flooded out over Lazelle Street. I had people in crowd control lines," he said.
Bush worries that with the music, motorcycles and all the excitement surrounding the Indian Motorcycle reveal, the Aug. 3 event has the potential to do the same.
"There’s music and drinking, and a lot of people will get caught up in the atmosphere. We don’t want to ruin the thing by having a big crowd issue," he said. "This is going to draw a lot of people. You may not like what happens down there."
Several years ago, the South Dakota Legislature passed a provision in the state’s liquor laws allowing alcohol license holders to request special licenses that would enable them to sell at locations in addition to the one geographic location on its permanent license.
Local governing bodies had the authority to enact an ordinance allowing these special licenses, which Sturgis did.
In this case, the license holder is Kenny Price, founder of Sampson Exhaust, a member of the Sturgis Motorcycle Museum Board of Directors and owner of Buffalo Bill's Casino in Sturgis. In addition to the reveal, Buffalo Bill’s will sell beer on private museum property from Aug. 4 to Aug. 9.
Sturgis City Manager Daniel Ainslie said allowing beer consumption in the street sets a precedent.
"There are concerns about the ability to actually enforce open container rules within the rest of Main Street," he said. "If you are on the wrong side of the fence, are they (police) going to have to ask the visitor to either pour the drink out, ticket or arrest them?"
But Ainslie also wanted to point out that half of the proceeds of beer sales will go to the museum which would help offset the loss of income for the museum from not having outside vendors during this year's rally.
Dave Davis, a Rapid City insurance agent and chairman of the museum board of directors, said there has been a lot of confusion about the museum's request, but he said the board would adhere to whatever the council decided.
Davis said it would be nice, but not absolutely necessary, to include the street for beer consumption. And he said he understood if the council was uncomfortable with that request.
“We are very adaptable. We want to make it work,” he said. "It does require they (Indian) put on a party. Allow us to do it right."