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Public hearing on rally drinking rules set for May 17

Public hearing on rally drinking rules set for May 17

Sturgis Rally Main Street

Bikes line Main Street in Sturgis during the 80th annual rally in 2020. A public hearing to allow open containers of beer and wine during the 2021 rally is set for May 17.

The public will have a chance to weigh in on allowing open containers of beer and wine on downtown Sturgis streets during the 2021 motorcycle rally, after the city council set a public hearing on the matter for May 17.

The council voted Monday to set the hearing date. At an April 19 meeting, the council discussed what the proposal for open containers would look like.

At that meeting, Mayor Mark Carstensen said the proposal calls for the city to sell souvenir cups to rally visitors. Those who wish to walk the streets of downtown Sturgis within certain boundaries during the rally would be able to visit bars and restaurants, fill their glass up and be able to consume beer and wine outside of the businesses.

"Obviously, there's no plan in place yet, but plans have been discussed. I think we can throw out the fact that the city of Sturgis would have locations throughout the rally that would sell the event cups," Carstensen said at the April 19 meeting. "At those locations also, we would work with volunteers and pals where we would ensure that somebody would ID and (give out a) band. It would still be up to the establishment to make sure they are IDing to protect their establishment, their liquor license or mart beverage license."

Proceeds from the selling of the event cups would be retained by the city and then given back as donations to various organizations through Sturgis Rally Charities and to fund an endowment for future donations.

"I truly envision an opportunity by selling cups to make a tremendous impact on the future of the Sturgis motorcycle rally, both in people attending and staying downtown longer without actually moving the needle much on the ground," Carstensen said. "I do understand that people will be drinking on the streets, but in my opinion as you look down the street, they're drinking six inches on the other side of a wall (in bars and restaurants). It would create more of an environment of staying downtown, pacing yourself and enjoying the people watching."

If approved by the city council, the proposed open container permit would last for a nine-day period during the rally and would be allowed between the hours of 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. The proposal calls for the 2021 rally to be a "case study" to see the positive and negative impacts of open containers on the downtown streets.

The proposed plan would allow the Sturgis Police Department, other law enforcement or safety personnel to rescind the open container policy, shut down the sales of the souvenir cups, and post signs that open containers are no longer allowed.

The revenue from the sale of the cups would provide much-needed dollars to Sturgis Rally Charities, Carstensen said. The donations to the organization have suffered over the past few years due to a licensing dispute of the "official" Sturgis motorcycle rally logos and trademarks owned by Sturgis Motorcycle Rally, Inc. (SMRi), a not-for-profit organization established in 2010 to license use of the terms "Sturgis" and "Black Hills" on vendor products sold in relation to the rally.

The revenue from the advertising and sponsorships allowed the city to make substantial donations to charity.

After a series of lawsuits on the trademarks, the federal courts ruled against SMRi, essentially invalidating the trademarks and the city began establishing its own logo, tagline and marketing for the rally. The city council voted April 19 to terminate the agreement with SMRi.

"We're making a legacy, long-lasting in perpetuity, giving back to our community from basically selling plastic cups," Carstensen said in April. "It'll take a few years, but I believe it is obtainable to create quite a large sum for the charities."

Contact Nathan Thompson at

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