Take a culture of drinking and pub crawls in the hip, party areas of Minneapolis. Add a heaping helping of angry venting on social media. Sprinkle in a bit of city-suburban rivalry, and you’ve got the ingredients for the Great Pedaling Pub Attacks of 2015.
Hate for the traveling taprooms went from an Internet joke to a criminal case over the weekend, when five men were charged with misdemeanors for allegedly throwing water balloons and shooting squirt guns at mobile pub passengers during a series of bicycle ride-by attacks in downtown Minneapolis.
On their third foray, the mounted avengers had the misfortune of attacking a group of off-duty Burnsville police officers, who chased them down and held them until Minneapolis police arrived.
But why choose pedaling pubs as a target? There are many reasons to dislike the self-propelled drinking parties, critics say. Riders can be noisy, especially after a few drinks. The slow-moving, 16-passenger bikes (yes, they’re considered bikes) can impede traffic, even though they are piloted by nondrinking company employees who adhere to all traffic rules. And it’s not unheard of for riders to leave unwelcome bodily fluids in their wake.
But a noted anthropologist points the finger at social media, which has done so much in recent decades to change the way Americans interact with each other. When there’s a Facebook page called “I Hate the Pedal Pub,” with more than 4,000 “likes,” it can embolden people to act in ways they never might have before.
“I think that is very definitely a factor,” said William Beeman, chairman of the Anthropology Department at the University of Minnesota. “You get something you’re interested in pursuing, and you have no idea whether anybody else feels the same way. And all of a sudden, you see that other people do feel the same way. You feel empowered, you feel like you’re a group that now has some legitimacy because of the numbers involved.
“And very likely, the large numbers give people who would like to take an action some feeling of support,” Beeman said. “If I take some action, I’ll have my community behind me.”
Matt Peterson, who started the “I Hate the Pedal Pub” Facebook page in 2010, said the page is satire and venting, not a call to action. A resident of northeast Minneapolis, Peterson is accustomed to seeing pub crawls and party buses in his tavern-rich neighborhood.
“But it was always bizarre that of all the pub crawls that would come through, the pedal pubs were most annoying,” he said. Peterson said he and other residents have observed pedaling pub riders yelling, littering, vomiting and urinating along the route through residential neighborhoods.
But he doesn’t endorse attacks on the pubs. His Facebook page “is a place for people to vent and share their issues,” he said. “It’s satire and it’s a place for people to come together and say they hate it.”
Shari Seymour lives a block from the PedalPub hub on California Street NE. She said the business and its patrons don’t cause any trouble in the Marshall Terrace neighborhood.
“They’ve been a great neighbor. We haven’t had any complaints in the neighborhood, and believe me, people would mention it,” said Seymour, who’s an officer of the local neighborhood association. “Everybody’s entitled to their opinion, but I think there are better uses of your time than creating a Facebook hate page.”
PedalPub is licensed by the city of Minneapolis and does its best to be a good corporate citizen, said Lisa Staplin, city manager for Twin Cities PedalPub.
“I don’t know what pushes people to the level they did this past weekend,” she said. “I don’t understand why they feel they need to hate us, because we have absolutely no impact on their lives.
“The city made the decision to license the industry, and they put in place a number of regulations we are expected to follow,” Staplin said. “If people are concerned about noise, why not go after the guys on Harleys we hear screaming up and down?”
One misconception about the pedaling pubs is that they’re full of suburban residents coming to get drunk in the city. That’s false, according to PedalPub and its competitor, Traveling Tap. Minneapolis residents make up more than half the customers of both businesses, the managers said. And the pubs’ visibility makes them an easy target, said Dan O’Brien, operations manager for Traveling Tap.
“There might be 95 people out of 100 who like it, but it’s the five people who make all the noise,” he said. The pubs operate in downtown and northeast Minneapolis because that’s where the action is, said Traveling Tap owner Matt Frakes.
“Look at all the bars and restaurants and breweries popping up,” he said. “Those are where the attractions are. Those are the cool areas of Minneapolis right now. We go where our customers want to be.”
Alleged attackers charged
Five of the six cyclists arrested Saturday for allegedly spraying squirt guns and throwing water balloons at PedalPub revelers in downtown Minneapolis were charged Tuesday with misdemeanors. A sixth person arrested after the water attacks was released without charges.
Charged were John Davis Rock, 24; Kurtis Wayne Johnson, 31; Jason Leonard Carlton, 42; Francis Wayne Bellanger, 26, and Mark William Dean, 31. All are Twin Cities residents. Rock is charged with fifth-degree assault and disorderly conduct, Johnson with fifth-degree assault, and the other three with disorderly conduct. All were released shortly after being booked into the Hennepin County jail over the weekend on $78 bond each.
Most of them have public Facebook pages on which they defended their actions and decried their arrests. A posting by Bellanger directed at the other defendants highlighted the phrase, “All I heard was, ‘I swear it will be funny,’ and then we were in jail … ” with the comment, “Sound familiar, guys?”
Beeman, the anthropologist, said he wouldn’t want the pubs to suffer from the attacks.
“Frankly, I would hate to see them go away,” he said. “From my standpoint, they’re an interesting feature on the urban landscape.”