Legendary Sturgis Full Throttle Saloon Destroyed by Fire

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Legendary Sturgis Full Throttle Saloon Destroyed by Fire

Full Throttle fire
Photo courtesy of Sturgis Volunteer Fire Department.
An early morning fire on Tuesday, Sept. 8, 2015, destroyed the Full Throttle Saloon just outside of Sturgis, South Dakota. The bar was known as “The World’s Largest Biker Bar,” and had been the subject of the truTV series “Full Throttle Saloon,” which aired for several seasons starting in 2009. The Sturgis area landmark bar was a popular destination for hundreds of thousands of bikers who show up yearly for the Sturgis Motorcycle Rally. The Full Throttle Saloon featured post-apocalyptic décor, zip lines above the amphitheater, and unique entertainment like freak shows, midget wrestling and burlesque-style dancers. The bar is owned by Michael Ballard and his wife, Angie.

According to KBHB Radio, the fire was reported just after midnight with smoke billowing from the roof of the main entrance. The wooden structure quickly was completely engulfed in flames and the fire also spread throughout the compound.

Local fire crews from Forte Meade were first on scene. Personnel from Sturgis, Piedmont, Vale, and Whitewood supported the battle to extinguish the fire. Complicating matters, the location also is home to bar owner Michael Ballard’s Sloonshine Distillery. The distillery reportedly had approximately 500 gallons of grain alcohol on the property as well as other liquor on hand for the bar business. The establishment has no major water source except for onsite holding tanks which added to the difficulty of putting out the fire. Thankfully, no one was reported injured in the fire or as a result of battling the blaze.

Federal, state and local officials investigated the Sept. 8 fire. Officials ruled the blaze accidental. Owner Michael Ballard says the fire was caused by an electrical cord. Ballard states the power cord became pinched by a keg cooler behind the main bar and it heated up and ignited a cardboard box. The loss is estimated at $10 million. Ballard says he isn’t sure yet if he’ll rebuild.

Whether rebuilding or not, the bar was greatly enjoyed by many in the biker community. We wish Michael and Angie Ballard the best in whatever decision they make.

Full Throttle before fire

The Full Throttle Saloon 2014, Photo courtesy of Rapid City Journal.

By |2015-09-23T16:06:39+00:00September 22nd, 2015|Categories: Editorial/Commentary Articles, News/Events Articles, Uncategorized|21 Comments

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21 Comments

  1. Moto November 13, 2015 at 10:14 pm

    I am confused by the statement that the
    S’ loon shine was distilled at the Full Throttle location. I am almost certain that it is distilled and bottled in Michael Ballard’s hometown of Trimble, TN. Now there may have been many cases of the S’ loon Shine stored there but it definitely was not distilled there. I believe the author of this article is confused on that point.

  2. Danny Cobb November 6, 2015 at 1:59 pm

    I met Mike and Angie at a bike show in K town TN. And they are really good people. You know that the moment you meet them. Real bummer what happened to that really one of a kind bar and party land. Was actually planning a trip up there since I got the sweet Harley I was wanting. Well things change and I truly wish Mike and Angie the best of luck on whatever their decision is to open the bar back up better than ever or just kick back and enjoy the family that they wanted. I feel bad for the cool employees who enjoyed working with you guys.Sturgis will never be the same without the Throttle.

  3. Animal October 10, 2015 at 9:45 pm

    An old buddy of mine and I were recently discussing our second thoughts about our decades ago work with our state ABATE and our drive to show people that bikers were OK for the most part and that motorcycling was a lot of fun. We and others did our work too well and forced the gates open and let hordes of posers and wannabes into our world and worst of all, the deep pockets crowd with their ‘money is no object’ mentality. The FTS was the epitome of how bikerdom lost it’s soul and became just another crass commercialization of a once great lifestyle. I say good riddance.

  4. Dude, Wisconsin Independent October 5, 2015 at 1:21 pm

    Last attended Sturgis in ’14…had a great time everywhere I rode in South Dakota and Wyoming except for that rathole called Full Throttle. Overerpriced and having nothing to offer a rider except bein the biggest filthiest slophole I ever been to in all of Sturgis’s history. After seein that whiner Ballard these past years on TV(you know who I mean, Michael”I ain’t makin enough”Ballard) and sein how he treated his employees(who bust butt to make him his millions)I can only hope he takes his insurance money and goes back to Tennessee or wherever…Sturgis wont miss him at all!

  5. John Newman sr September 30, 2015 at 11:46 pm

    So sorry to hear that it burnt. In 05 me and some buddies got so drunk that Michael came out and stopped me from trying to ride back to camp grounds. I hope you rebuild.

  6. Robert Harris September 29, 2015 at 9:17 pm

    Sorry for your loss.

  7. John kirchner September 29, 2015 at 7:29 pm

    I am sorry to here about the fire I cam from Western Australia in 2013 to be their I enjoyed thanks

  8. Davd F. Hacker September 29, 2015 at 5:51 pm

    I ride a 15′ Harley Road Glide and have considered attending the Sturgis Rally. I must go back many years when I was stationed at Ellsworth AFB, 72-75 and recall driving our blue & white military trucks through Sturgis during the rally those days long ago.
    A few weeks ago, I attended my wife’s mom’s funeral and decided to take a drive up to Sturgis and check out the area. Let me share several changes I remember;
    First off; the former campground is now a soccer field.
    Second; the area where the Full Throttle Saloon was situated was wide open prairie.
    Third; downtown Sturgis is not like it once was. I did manage to stop into the new J & P Cycle Store.
    Forth; is the impressive H & D store on the north side of Rapid City.
    Fifth; alas, Bear Butte still stands.

    I must plan a trip up that way and spend more time. At my age, I may have to trailer the Harley up that way, park the truck & trailer at the relatives and enjoy the ride. I hated to leave the area, the Hills were always impressive, but I don’t miss the snow & cold. (I now live in the Phoenix area).

  9. Steve September 29, 2015 at 4:17 pm

    Com’on man, I loved this place (and the show). Glad I got to go there this year before it burned. Never a cover charge when I have been there during Sturgis. Very unique, wild & crazy inside.

  10. Roger McKinney September 29, 2015 at 2:17 pm

    Never been to Full Throttle but my wife and I both watched the TV show. We both agreed the only way Angie could ever be in love with a nappy headed white boy is for his money, there will be two more checks written- one to Angie and the other to their DIVORCE attorney!

  11. Dave September 29, 2015 at 2:11 pm

    My brother-in-law went up this year and said it was the dirtiest,filthy place he had ever been. Him and a lot of people left and went to the Buffolo Chip.

    • watcher September 30, 2015 at 11:07 am

      Not a yuppie bar.

  12. RedassRick September 29, 2015 at 10:43 am

    How convenient…. WORLD’S BIGGEST ASSHOLE cries constantly about money on cable television and gets a huge suspicious insurance check. I wouldn’t walk in that hole if
    if the merchandise was FREE! Maybe someone will open a place for REAL BIKERS to enjoy instead of a yuppie-rub palace.
    GOOD RIDDANCE!!!

    • wolfman September 29, 2015 at 11:18 am

      Hey Rick, That was well put and right on target, but why don’t you come on and tell us how you really feel man, Don’t hold back this time …

    • Mark September 29, 2015 at 11:56 am

      Agreed of the greed. Noted that it was the busiest summer they ever had followed by a huge insurance check. Hope the investigators dig deep. Big win for the new Broken Spoke.

  13. Lee Johnson September 29, 2015 at 9:42 am

    Need to move it Calvery Canada . No guns in Canada . And no price gouging on motels and RV sites

    • Cpt. Jag September 29, 2015 at 10:58 am

      If course there’s no price gouging there. No one’s ever heard of the place nor does anyone other than locals go there. The moment you have one million+ people descend there, you’ll have price gouging. It’s called supply and demand. I don’t care if you’re a capitalist, socialist, or communist, or the only guy in the desert with water. When you’re the only game in town, you have to pay to play or go somewhere else. I’ve been to Sturgis a few times and I didn’t go in the Full Throttle because I didn’t care to pay their over the top cover charge, back in 2012 it was already at $70 – $75 per person. But, many others did. The fact that you guys don’t allow guns makes me, my family and friends unsafe not safer.

      • Mark September 29, 2015 at 11:54 am

        Not always true. During the run up to five dollar premium a few years back we found a little country store deep in the Nevada desert where gas could’ve been 8 bucks where she had her place. It was 3 bucks and change. I asked her why her gas wasn’t sky high, she said ‘I’m getting it wholesale for less than I’m charging you, I think that’s enough’. Bless her, and there are a few more around like her.

  14. DocC September 29, 2015 at 9:26 am

    I have been going to Sturgis for over 25 years.
    I have never been to the Full Throttle or ONE Eyet Jacks. I too wear my cuts when I ride, whether to Sturgis or wherever.
    I refuse to spend my money where I am not wanted.
    The Dungeon, Sidehacks, Fireside, Oasis, Knuckleheads all happily take my money.
    DocC
    ICMC

  15. CC VMC MICH VFFV September 29, 2015 at 8:36 am

    It couldn;t have been the worlds largest biker bar because they have not allowed REAL bikers to enter. You would have to admit that MC;s are the real bikers and it;s a shame that Mr. Ballard would not allow me inside his bar when I go to Sturgis. I’ve been going to Sturgis since 1979 and back then clubs were the majority of the bikers who went to our beloved Sturgis. It’s a shame that the full thottle has joined up with the police and the gangland crowd to insult Motorcycle clubs across this country of which everyone knows that 99% are law abiding citizens. So good riddens to the full throttle which was the worlds biggest yuppie bar. Crazy Charlie, Violators MC Michigan since 1965.

    • Guru, LCMC September 29, 2015 at 12:27 pm

      I agree Crazy Charlie. I used to go there before they started filming the reality show there and he started the no colors rule.

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