Wednesday, June 6, 2007

Broken Spoke owner leaves unpaid bills

Broken Spoke owner leaves unpaid bills Contractors ask Meade County Commission to suspend beer license
By Dan Daly, Journal staff Wednesday, June 06, 2007

STURGIS - Broken Spoke Saloon owner Jay Allen, who built the controversial Sturgis County Line rally venue north of Bear Butte last year, has a new controversy: unpaid bills.
Builders, electricians and contractors who built Sturgis County Line say Allen owes them thousands of dollars each. They haven't been paid in nearly a year, and the debts are causing financial problems for them.

Half a dozen contractors turned out at the Meade County Commission alcohol license renewal hearing Tuesday to ask commissioners to suspend approval of Allen's beer license until they are paid in full.

Commissioners agreed to table the Sturgis County Line license application until Thursday. However, the commission went on to approve all of the other alcohol licenses between Bear Butte and Sturgis.

They approved the licenses despite strident pleas from American Indian groups and supporters of a development buffer or an alcohol ban near Bear Butte. The groups urged commissioners to deny alcohol licenses to all the rally campgrounds and concert venues near Bear Butte.

The butte, also known as Mato Paha, is sacred to the Lakota, the Northern Cheyenne, the Osage, the Ponca and other indigenous groups. They decry what they see as the encroachment of the noisy motorcycle event in an area where pilgrims seek prayer and solitude.

In recent years, the groups have regularly testified before the Meade County Commission about their opposition to alcohol near Bear Butte. They have asked for buffers ranging from seven miles to 1-1/2 miles.

The tone at Tuesday's hearing was much different, in part because they were joined by the angry contractors.

Al Sutton of Al Sutton Electric in Rapid City told the commissioners that he has a lien against the Sturgis County Line property for $15,000 in electrical work plus interest and legal fees.

He said Allen sent him a check for $15,000 shortly before Tuesday's hearing. The check hasn't cleared the bank, and Sutton won't release the lien until it does -- and Allen pays the legal fees and interest.

"Just because he sent out checks and made promises doesn't mean he's cleared it up," Sutton told the commissioners.

Gene King of King's Construction said his company is owed $42,000, and he faces financial problems of his own because of Allen's unpaid bill.

Allen was not at Tuesday's license hearing. He was represented by Lon Nordbye Jr., who told commissioners that Allen is working at a motorcycle event in Ohio.

Nordbye conceded that Jay Allen has had serious difficulties in financing the new Sturgis venue. He said Allen is selling his Broken Spoke Saloons in Laconia, N.H., and Daytona, Fla. He has also taken on partners at his Broken Spoke in downtown Sturgis.

"He is actively trying to resolve the problems," Nordbye said.

Nordbye said five of six lienholders have been paid. With the sixth lien, King's Construction, he said that Allen disputes the amount that King's claims it is owed.

Ann White Hat, a member of the Rosebud Sioux Tribe who lives at the base of Bear Butte, suggested that Allen's unpaid bills should be a basis to deny the license for reasons of character.

Bear Butte groups have called on Sturgis bikers to boycott the bars and concert venues near Bear Butte. It's unclear whether that caused financial problems for Allen and the Sturgis County Line.

However, attendance was decidedly light, according to those who were at Sturgis County Line. But its location north on S.D. Highway 79 is much farther from Sturgis than most bikers usually venture.

Contact Dan Daly at 394-8421 or