An early morning fire ripped through the Full Throttle Saloon, the iconic Sturgis establishment known as “The World’s Largest Biker Bar,” razing it to the ground. According to a report by KBHB Radio, the fire was reported just after midnight with smoke billowing from the roof of the main entrance. It didn’t take long before the wooden structure was fully engulfed, the fire quickly spreading throughout the compound. The fire was so intense Highway 34, the main road in front of the saloon, had to be shut down temporarily.
Fire crews from Forte Meade, a short distance down the road, were first on scene. Personnel from Sturgis, Piedmont, Vale, and Whitewood supported the battle to knock down the flames. The property also houses Michael Ballard’s Sloonshine Distillery, and approximately 500 gallons of grain alcohol were reportedly on-premise, further complicating efforts to douse the flames. The establishment has no major water source as water is trucked in and stored in holding tanks adding to the difficulty of knocking down the flames. Initial reports claim no one was injured in the blaze whose cause is still under investigation.
YouTube video by Black Helmet Films
The Full Throttle Saloon, just east of Sturgis, is one of the most popular destinations during the annual rally. With post-apocalyptic décor, burn-out pits, ziplines above the amphitheater, and over-the-top entertainment like freak shows, midget wrestling and burlesque-style dancers, the Full Throttle endeared itself to the biker community. The allure of the circus sideshow for adults spread to the general public thanks to truTV’s “Full Throttle Saloon” series which ran for five seasons. The TV show would film the mayhem that goes on there during the Sturgis Rally along with behind-the-scenes footage of what it takes to run the bar.
The bar is owned by Michael Ballard and his wife Angie. Ballard purchased the property just east of Sturgis in 1999. Jesse James Dupree, frontman of the band Jackyl, is a friend of the Ballards and major supporter of the business through his multimedia company Mighty Loud. Just a month ago, the bar was jam-packed with bikers during the 75th annual Sturgis Rally but now only hosts the ghosts of steel structures that withstood the flames.