World's largest biker bar deploys new cams to mitigate theft
STURGIS, S.D.–Every August half a million bikers descend on this small town in South Dakota for the country’s largest motorcycle rally.
The Full Throttle Saloon, at the heart of the week-long rally, caters to roughly 30,000 bikers a day and handles millions of dollars in cash over the course of the rally. This is not your average bar. The Full Throttle has 15 acres of bar space and more than 100 bartenders working at any one time during the rally, according to Chris Donahue, the bar’s spokesman. The bar’s website claims it is “the world’s largest biker bar.”
Mix young rowdy bikers, older motorcycle enthusiasts and lots of alcohol and you have a “powder keg” with plenty of opportunities for incidents, Donahue told Security Director News. “All together in one bar, that’s a recipe for disaster if not managed correctly,” he said.
Part of managing that crowd is video surveillance. Over the past five years, the Full Throttle has spent roughly $40,000 on beefing up its security system, including 20 new HD megapixel cameras from IQinVision. Donahue likes to tout the claim that the Full Throttle has a more robust security system than some Las Vegas casinos.
Besides monitoring the crowd, the cameras “help us resolve conflicts in cases where an employee accuses another of theft or where we have reason to believe a bartender or teller may be stealing,” Donahue said.
In fact, the cameras’ primary job–and where the security system’s major ROI comes from–is to monitor the bartenders and bank tellers (yes, the bar has its own bank) to reduce theft, Donahue said. Since the bar only deals with cash, it’s unknown how much money was lost to theft before cameras were in place, Donahue said. But today the cameras are promoted to the roughly 200 bartenders the bar the hires before the rally begins as a deterrent to their even thinking about stealing. Donahue said it’s worked and the number of employee thefts has decreased over the past several years.
The resolution of the cameras is such that they can count individual bills, Donahue said. “That’s the value of having it. It’s simply in our loss prevention efforts. These [bartenders] know they have to be sly to ... steal money from the register,” he said. “That’s a mitigating force to be reckoned with.”
The integrator on the project, Jeff Haase from Clearwater Security, deployed some new cameras this year in the bank that “will allow us to count each bill, track what the teller is entering into the bank's computer system, and observe the teller place each cash register's net deposit in the vault," Haase said in a press release.
The Full Throttle stores more than 10 terabytes of video, allowing security personnel to review a bartender’s performance over the past two years, let alone the last shift, if they are suspected of theft. The stored video can also assist local law enforcement, internal documentation, and insurance purposes.