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Thursday, October 15, 2015

A Bad Year For Bikers - Full Throttle Burns Down

"Article from Gemma Bayley "

A Bad Year For Bikers - Full Throttle Burns Down
Any year has its ups and downs, but when it comes to the biking world, 2015 seems to have had more of the latter than the former. The shootout at Twin Peaks in Waco back in May resulted in many great losses to the biking world, and it also reignited old prejudices. America suffers from a lot of ingrained stereotyping of bikers (and resultant discrimination) which doesn't exist in many other parts of the world, and which we've worked hard to try and eliminate. Unfortunately, the Waco shootings did nothing to aid this process, and put the cause of stopping biker profiling back several years, if not decades. To add insult to injury, a cherished biker hangout, the Full Throttle bar/complex in Sturgis, South Dakota burned down earlier this month.
Full Throttle Saloon
The Full Throttle Saloon was more of a phenomenon than a simple bar. It was known as the largest biker bar in the world, and could see up to 15,000 visitors per night pass through its doors during the annual Sturgis biker rally. Beer was delivered nightly by the truckload, and the demand for 'S'loonshine' was met with a distillery on the premises. It was an enormous blue-collar enterprise offering everything the discerning (and not so discerning) biker could wish for - live music, floorshows, plenty of booze, opportunities to show off their biking prowess, and the 'Angieland' experience for connoisseurs of the female posterior. So eclectic and 'out there' was the bar that it even inspired its own reality tv show. On a more prosaic note, it also provided a great venue for bikers to meet up, catch up, and form connections - a novice biker would be sure to find plenty of advice at the bar on getting into biking, like bike maintenance tips, great roads to ride, and people to get in touch with within the biking world. It was non-segregational, everyone was welcome, regardless of their demographic or their biker allegiances, and the place rarely experienced much violence. Both authorities and bikers were concerned that the Sturgis rally in general and Full Throttle in particular might see some booze-fuelled fighting in the wake of the Waco shootings this year - to the extent that insurers even raised their premiums on bikes in some instances - but the event passed peaceably enough. And nobody thus far has called gang-related foul play on the fiery destruction of the bar earlier this month.
The Fire
According to reports, the fire began to eat at the bar early on the morning of Tuesday September 8th. The bar was constructed of wood and steel beams - and the amount of grain alcohol on the premises, including 500 gallons within the distillery ensured that the fire quickly gained ground. Little is left but a few charred remains and the steel pillars standing forlornly among the wreckage. Thankfully, the one employee on the premises managed to escape without injury, and fans of the Full Throttle mascot, Emmet the Donkey, will be pleased to hear that he also emerged unscathed . Both the unnamed employee and Emmet were lucky - such was the ferocity of the fire that representatives from six different fire departments were beaten back by the raging flames, and the fire had burned the bar to the ground within only three hours.
What Next?
The cause of the fire has been ruled as accidental. According to owner Michael Ballard, the blaze began when a power cord to a refrigerator overheated and set a cardboard box aflame. There are some who are dubious about this, and questions have been raised on internet forums regarding the bar's insurance status and Ballard's personal finances. Ballard, however, appears unmitigatedly distressed by the loss of his bar. After all, he has lost not only his business but everything of personal value to him within the bar - including a good deal of painstakingly collected biker memorobilia. The authorities appear to concur with his version of events. Whether or not Ballard will rebuild Full Throttle remains to be seen. The cabins within the compound which he rents out to rallygoers during the Sturgis event remained untouched, so that arm of his business will, he has said, continue next year. But as for the bar itself - whether something as iconic and atmospheric as Full Throttle can ever truly be rebuilt is questionable.