ST. JOSEPH — Two Indiana sisters want to operate a Pedal Pub that allows riders to consume alcoholic beverages in St. Joseph, but city officials want to make sure it doesn’t create headaches for downtown visitors.
“This has possibilities for some areas, but I’m not sure it’s for our area,” Commissioner Jeff Richards said following the presentation by Shellie Kermin and Julie McGinnis to operate Pedal Pub Michiana in St. Joseph.
“We’re a family-friendly, G-rated community,” Richards said.
Permitting the conveyance as proposed would require changing the city’s open container law for alcoholic beverages.
Commissioners and residents expressed concerns about creating congestion with the bikes that would carry up to 15 passengers who would be allowed to consume beer and wine, but not hard liquor. Questions also were raised about regulating the amount of alcohol riders would be allowed to imbibe.
The Pedal Pub would be steered by a trained, licensed pilot, which would be the sisters at first, they told commissioners. The pedal power would be supplied by the riders, with the assist of battery power.
This would be a franchise with a company that operates in 50 locations in the U.S. and Canada, the women said. Michigan sites include Ann Arbor, Lansing, Detroit and Frankenmuth.
They described the service as environmentally friendly, and something that promotes “fun, fitness, laughter and camaraderie” while taking people to local sights.
In its 10 years of operation, Pedal Pub has had only a few accidents, Kermin said.
They anticipate that excursions would last between two to three hours, with stops along the way at restaurants and shops.
It will be BYOB for people 21 and over, and no glass would be allowed. Riders are offered helmets. The Pedal Pub, which travels about 5 miles per hour, would not be allowed to operate on a road with a speed limit of over 35 miles per hour, which would keep it off the Blossomland bridge.
“It won’t be like they’re pounding down drinks,” McGinnis said. And there is nothing stopping people from bringing along soft drinks, she said, and customers can bring along snacks.
The women said they are trained in safe serving techniques, the same as bartenders, and customers who drink too much will be asked to stop or will be ordered off the bike. They would not be allowed to step off the bike carrying alcohol.
State law allows the consumption of alcoholic beverages on commercial quadricycles, subject to local ordinances. St. Joseph has several ordinances prohibiting the transportation, possession, or consumption of liquor in public places.
For the Pedal Pub to operate in the community, the city commission would have to direct staff to amend ordinances to permit the transportation, possession, or consumption of liquor in public places by the passengers of a commercial quadricycle, City Manager John Hodgson explained.
Commissioners could request other regulations or restrictions, he said.
Such an ordinance would not apply to surrey bikes or the low-speed vehicles recently approved in the city, since they are not commercial quadricycles, Hodgson said after the meeting.
Kermin said they chose St. Joseph because they like the community and “it’s not too big and it’s not too small.”
Where the conveyance would be parked when it makes its stops would be worked out later, said Kermin. They hope to get rolling by next year.
Traffic congestion is a major concern, Richards said.
Commissioner Laura Goos said it is “a novel concept,” but she would like to learn more of how it works in other cities. St. Joseph has narrow streets and sidewalks, and visitors who are sometimes confused about how to get around, she said.
Commissioner Lynn Todman said she is concerned about safety, and agreed that she would not be able to make a decision without seeing how the operation functions in other locations.
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