Sturgis Rally vendor fee increases anger business owners - KOTA Territory News

Sturgis Rally vendor fee increases anger business owners

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Last year, the Sturgis Rally generated more than $1.4 million dollars in revenue for the city. This year, vendors say it's their bottom line that is at stake as new vendor fees are phased in.

"It's very difficult to be a vendor," said Bob Davis, Owner of Sturgis Photo and Gift Shop.
 
Davis,a former vendor, says he's seen the number of vendors lining these streets decrease by 25 percent in the last seven years.
 
"Sturgis has more rules and regulations and more hoops to jump through than all the other towns in the Black Hills combined," said Davis.
 
But now those 'rules' are changing. Vendor fees will increase $50  this year to $700. Next year, a new system comes into play.

"The change would be based on a flat fee for every vendor on every location, and then a per square foot fee," said Daniel Ainslie, Sturgis City Manager.
 
For large vendors, that could result in a fee increase of $1,800.
 
"Thirty percent of vendor space is empty. This fee will be one of the biggest economic disasters to ever hit the Sturgis rally," said David Wilson, Owner of Sturgis Real Estate and Promotions.
 
"It does try to provide some equity among smaller vendors and larger ones. It's a small increase to keep up with up of inflation, trash services cost rise," said Ainslie.
 
Realtors say for some large lots, it may cost more to get a vendor license than it would to actually lease the land for the duration of the rally.
 
"[Vendors] want to bring a smaller show, cut back on employees, it affects how many houses are rented, motels rooms are rented," said Wilson.
 
"It might drive a few away, but honestly, of the total cost to come to the rally, the vendor fees are a minor portion," said Ainslie.
 
Business owners say what Sturgis needs is to make the city more appealing for vendors who are taking their business elsewhere.
 
"Replace t-shirt vendors with artists, craftsmen, custom part makers, things the bikers are interested in- things now found outside of Sturgis," said Davis.

Wilson says there are plans in development to open a large rally attraction outside of Sturgis where vendor fees are significantly lower. He predicts Rapid City and other hill towns where vendor fees are non existant will see more and more business this year.

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