Beer and bicycling are a match made in heaven. Too bad it took a year to consummate.
They've finally put the "pub" in PedalPub.
The PedalPub, if you've somehow missed it rolling through Twin Cities streets, is a curious contraption. It's a 16-passenger bicycle -- equipped with a bar top and a keg tap -- that people pay $150 an hour to ride on.
Fun stuff, but there was one problem: State law prohibited riders from drinking on it. Since the PedalPub started in April 2007, riders have simply taken it for bar-hopping tours, getting drinks at stops along the way.
But after a year of pestering legislators and making their case known, co-owners Al Boyce and Eric Olson have good news:
It's now legal to drink on the PedalPub.
The PedalPub concept came from Amsterdam, where passengers have always been able to drink on board (and that's probably not the only thing they're doing). But in Minnesota, the PedalPub ran into the state's open-bottle law.
The owners hoped to get their 2,000-pound bicycle categorized with limos or party buses, which are exempt from the law (like those vehicles, the PedalPub has a paid driver). But with nothing else like it in Minnesota -- or the other 49 states -- the PedalPub was on shaky legal ground.
Boyce caught the ear of Rep. Steve Simon, DFL-St. Louis Park, who drafted a bill this year to group the PedalPub with limos and buses. The bill passed in May, and Boyce contacted officials in Minneapolis and St. Paul to make them aware of the change.
"He wrote a letter to every single police precinct in Minneapolis," Simon said. "I was really impressed by Al and his advocacy."
The first beer was drunk on board two weeks ago.
Riders, as you might expect, are ecstatic.
Gabrielle Atwood, 25, of Minneapolis, said the rule change made her group's ride last Friday all the more exciting. For their tour through northeast Minneapolis, they loaded up the PedalPub with three coolers containing Pabst Blue Ribbon, vodka slushies and snacks.
"It was my favorite night of the summer so far," Atwood said. "It was so fun. People were honking at us and taking pictures."
While the PedalPub duo have gotten what they wished for, they recognize the risk involved. "The tradeoff with having more business is we might have to deal with really drunk people," Olson said.
But business was growing regardless. In June, the PedalPub did 22 tours in 30 days, almost double from last year.
It also ended a lengthy tug-of-war with the Minneapolis Park Board, which had refused to give its permission to ride the parkways. Two months ago Olson and Boyce secured a contract that gives the PedalPub routes on such scenic locales as the Stone Arch Bridge.
Other routes have been added around the Twin Cities, too, including a Hiawatha bar hop and even a tailgating route for Twins games (Aug. 3, Aug. 17 and Sept. 7).
It's also reaching beyond the Twin Cities. One long-range goal was to sell PedalPubs to like-minded companies outside Minnesota. Boyce and Olson sold their first to Amstel Light, which is using the bike in promotional events around the country. Boyce recently flew to New York to drive Amstel's PedalPub through the streets of Manhattan.
It was just a cherry on top of a first year that's seen this wacky invention overcome obstacle after obstacle.
"It was a long journey, but it was worth it," Boyce said.