Meade County faces decision on County Line rally venue
New owners may open bar beyond rally
By Kevin Woster, Journal staff Monday, April 21, 2008
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The Meade County Commission is scheduled to decide this week whether to challenge a circuit court ruling directing it to reconsider its denial of a liquor license for the controversial Sturgis County Line rally venue.
Commissioner Dean Wink said Saturday that the commission will convene at about 8 a.m. Thursday and go into executive session to decide whether to appeal the decision by Circuit Court Judge John Bastian. The other option is for them to proceed with reconsideration of the liquor license for Sturgis County Line, as Bastian has directed them to do.
"Basically, it's going to go in one of two directions," Wink said. "We'll either decide to appeal to the South Dakota Supreme Court or we'll set up a public hearing for people to comment on what we do next."
The commission refused in December to renew the County Line liquor license because of outstanding bills owed by owner Jay Allen. Allen appealed the decision, and Bastian ruled following a hearing last week that a pending ownership transfer of the Sturgis County Line required the commission to reconsider its liquor-license denial.
Officials for Target Logistic of Boston testified that they are buying controlling interest in the venue, which is located northeast of Sturgis within a mile and a half from Bear Butte, as well as the Broken Spoke Saloon in Sturgis and similar properties in other states.
Bastian determined that because ownership changed the commission must reconsider the liquor license issue. Meade County Commission Chairman Bob Mallow of Black Hawk said the commission will discuss the potential legal issue in executive session, then reconvene to take official action in public.
"If we make the decision to have a hearing, then there'll be public input. We'll set up a hearing," Mallow said. "Normally when you go for a liquor license, location and character are the only two things you can deny for. In this case, we're saying it was character."
If the commission agrees to proceed with a license hearing for Target Logistics, the "character" question will be reviewed in regard to the new owners, Mallow said.
Target Logistics President Joe Murphy said he's ready for that, and for the responsibilities that will come with taking over the Sturgis County Line and Allen's other businesses. He'll also take on some of Allen's outstanding bills, once the transfer is final May 1.
Allen will remain with the business as entertainment promoter for events during the Sturgis rally and at other times during the year.
"We want to make a commitment to South Dakota and Sturgis that we're going to be good citizens," Murphy said. "We're going to expand the use of this facility to year-round use."
That troubles some critics of County Line, including Bear Butte area resident Tamra Brennan, founder of Protect Sacred Sites as Indigenous People, One Nation. The organization opposes development that threatens the spiritual qualities of Bear Butte, which is a sacred ceremony site for the Lakota, Northern Cheyenne and other Native Americans.
Brennan said the plans for extending Sturgis County Line events beyond the August rally season are particularly worrisome.
"If he goes and starts doing these big concert venues and other rallies in June, July and August, when are the people who come to the butte going to be able to perform their ceremonies?" Brennan said. "There is not going to be any peace and quiet when people choose to go up there and pray."
Brennan also said it's premature to remand the license issue back to the commission based on a company transfer that isn't yet finished.
"The new owners shouldn't even count at this point, since they're not even the new owners yet," she said.
Murphy said the deal is all but done, barring some unforeseen adversity.
"In our minds, it's a done deal," he said. "We've committed people. We've committed money. We're going to commit much more."
Murphy said he is willing to hear and work, as much as possible, with those opposed to the location of Sturgis County Line in proximity to Bear Butte.
"It's definitely something we've weighed. I've spoken to some of the people involved and told them we'll be happy to make any reasonable accommodations if we can," Murphy said. "If they're not going to be happy until we leave, we'll have trouble making an accommodation."
Contact Kevin Woster at 394-8413 or email@example.com.
If you go
Who: Meade County Commission
What: Meeting on whether to reconsider Sturgis County Line liquor license
When: 8 a.m. Thursday
Where: Meade County Courthouse commission room
In peace & solidarity,
Protect Sacred Sites Indigenous People, One Nation
"Our sacred lands are all that remain keeping us connected to our place on Mother Earth, to our spirituality, our heritage and our lands; what’s left of them. If they take it all away, what will remain except a vague memory of a past so forgotten?"