Roving pedal bars get review in Minneapolis

  • Article by: ERIC ROPER , Star Tribune
  • Updated: January 28, 2013 - 8:42 PM

Minneapolis council member, residents say bars on wheels are unsafe and a nuisance to neighborhoods. New rules are proposed.

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This Pedal Pub tour made its way through the Northeast neighborhood route, visiting various bars.

Photo: Tom Wallace, Star Tribune

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The bars on wheels that have become a ubiquitous summertime sight on Minneapolis streets took plenty of criticism at City Hall on Monday as officials weighed new regulations for the business.

Several residents testified that the partygoers on board can be noisy and out of control, sometimes urinating in public. And Council Member Lisa Goodman questioned whether allowing open-air bars to maneuver through streets is a good idea at all. "I guess this is the best we can do," she said. "But personally I think it's just a terrible idea to allow people to have open bottles on [a] public right-of-way."

The eye-catching cycles, which are powered by beer-drinking pedalers seated around a rectangular bar, have been legal since the Legislature passed a law sanctioning them in 2008. Minneapolis now wants to regulate the business by requiring licenses, performing inspections, limiting hours of operation and specifying where tours can congregate.

A City Council panel approved the new restrictions on Monday after a public hearing showed nearly universal support for regulation -- including from industry leaders.

The regulations may curb the rowdiness some have witnessed. Goodman recalled seeing people leaving the tours "trashed" and then "screaming and yelling and peeing on the side" of her former apartment building in downtown Minneapolis before getting in their cars. She expressed concern that the city could be held liable if an accident is caused by a pothole, for example, though the regulations require companies to hold $2 million in liability insurance. A city staffer also said there have been no recorded traffic accidents involving the pedal cars.

The city rules are technically aimed at "commercial pedal cars," because "PedalPub" as they're commonly known is a trademarked word belonging to a local company of the same name. Al Boyce, an owner of PedalPub, said their annual tour numbers have grown about 30 percent every year up to about 2,900 in the metro area last summer. Last year a competing business, Traveling Tap, joined the fray with just under 200 tours.

Boyce said Goodman was speaking "honestly and authentically," but "we think we've come a long ways toward fighting some of those things."

Grant Wilson, the city's manager of business licensing, said the primary complaints about the pedal cars is that the customers are too loud in residential neighborhoods and they occasionally urinate in public.

The regulations seek to address this by requiring the tours to assemble at approved locations where restrooms and off-street parking are available -- except in downtown. The rules also state that tours must stop by 10 p.m. and keep noise below a conversational volume.

Several residents of northeast Minneapolis testified that the pedal cars have become a nuisance in their neighborhoods.

One couple who live near the Acorn Storage Facility, where two of the bikes are stored and launched, said the customers use up needed parking and then have "pre- and post-[tour] parties" in the area. "This has honestly ruined our summers," said Ben Hoefer.

"I'm just shocked that this kind of a business was ever allowed in the first place," said another resident, Terry Gydesen.

Patrons currently bring their own alcohol to the tours. The regulations, which get a final vote from the full council next week, limit allowed beverages to beer, wine, hard cider, or malt-based beverages with alcohol content below 6 percent.

Eric Roper • 612-673-1732 Twitter: @StribRoper

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