Sturgis Motorcycle Rally staffing and employee housing difficult to keep up, but businesses find ways to make it work

STURGIS, S.D. — The annual rally in Sturgis is the city’s largest economic driver, bringing in around $1.2 million in tax revenue last year.

This year is shaping up to be another successful and busy event for both attendees and local establishments.

For many, hiring local is the goal, but not always guaranteed as many other places are looking to do the same. Places like the Iron Horse Saloon, which opens usually from May through September, bring employees from some of their other locations out-of-state to make do.

“We try to use as many of the locals as we can,” Stephen Penland with the Iron Horse Saloon said. “But everybody wants to use everybody around here, so it is hard. Probably 80 percent of our staff is from out of town.”

Leading up to their main season, the saloon can have as few as two or three employees on duty, but that number skyrockets to over 100 once the rally gets into full swing.

The Sturgis Motel on the other hand usually has a team of around six people maintaining the place, which has been the situation in years past. But in the middle of what she knows to be the busiest time of 2022, the motel’s owner, Rhonda Brown, is pulling double duty and then some to make sure rooms are ready to go — helping her only other cleaning attendant.

“It is really hard to hire people because we are not in a bar scene, we are not in a tips scene,” Brown said. “Everybody comes out here to make that big money, and even though we pay very well, it is still not what they are coming out here expecting.”

Both the saloon and motel have access to campgrounds and nearby places they own for employees that need a place to stay, especially during the rally. The rally website even has a list of campgrounds and other options for people looking for a place to stay, which can be found here.

However, both places shared similar sentiments for the amount of effort the city has put into ensuring businesses are ready. Brown in particular is thankful after the city arranged for a contractor to help her sort out a plumbing issue with only weeks left before the big event.

“They are incredible partners with the small businesses in this area,” said Brown.

Categories: Local News, South Dakota News, Sturgis Rally