Sturgis Motorcycle Rally 2021: City Council Allowing Open Containers for First Time in 81 Years

by Thad Mitchell

For the first time in more than eight decades, Sturgis Motorcycle Rally attendees will be allowed to have a beer while walking the town.

Having an open container while walking the sidewalks during the event used to get you in serious trouble. Violators were often given a citation and a court date for such actions. But that is in the past now as the city council says rally goers may possess open containers of alcohol. The annual rally is a gathering of motorcycle enthusiasts from all over the country.

Each year, thousands of riders converge on the Western South Dakota town of Sturgis to enjoy fellowship with their fellow enthusiasts. The annual event takes place every August with bikers heading to the downtown portion of Sturgis. The small city only has a year-round population just south of 7,000 people and the annual motorcycle rally is a big moneymaker for the small town.

The small town’s City Council hopes new open container guidelines attract even more bikers this year. Sturgis leaders approved a temporary open container ordinance just a short time ago. The ordinance allows participants to consume certain alcoholic beverages in the city’s commercial district. The annual Sturgis Motorcycle Rally is spread out over 10 days with various activities throughout the week and a half event.

Sturgis city official Jerry Cole tells the Argus Leader that the hope for the ordinance is to get people shopping. Cole is the director of rallies and events for the city of Sturgis — a big job in the small town.

“Our hope is this will bring people outside onto the streets rather than crowding people in the bars,” he says. “It will hopefully get people out of the bar and walking along the streets to shops.”

Sturgis Leaders Hope to See Bikers in Local Shops

If this measure does indeed get bikers out and shopping locally, it would be a huge economic benefit to Sturgis. Another factor in passing the ordinance is the looming threat of the COVID-19 pandemic. Crowding people into over-packed bars would not be a wise move with the virus still hanging around. But with pandemic restrictions, like social distancing and mask-wearing, now loosening — it was the right time.

There are a few other restrictions to go along with the new Sturgis ordinance. If you want to stroll down the walkway with a beer in hand, rally attendees will have to purchase a “commemorative” cup. These cups will be available at various locations across the city, according to Cole. The cups are $10 each and will benefit the Sturgis Motorcycle Rally charities nonprofit organization.

The annual Sturgis Motorcycle Rally will kick off next Friday, August 6, and conclude on Sunday, August 15. Sturgis expects thousands upon thousands of motorcycle riders to attend this year’s event.