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Minneapolis pedal pubs getting their first city regulations

Complaints prompted the city to establish ground rules for what one council member calls “rolling liquor establishments.”

A single pedal pub (like this one in St. Paul) can carry 16 paying passengers, which is enough to make some noise and strain parking and restroom facilities when arriving in a group.
MinnPost photo by Corey Anderson

It is possible to pedal down a Minneapolis street and drink beer at the same time, but it’s not possible to do that for four years without someone from city government noticing.

Welcome, all of you pedal-pub riders and drinkers, to the amazing world of license fees, fines, inspections and regulations.

You’ll be happy to know that in the future, there will be a restroom waiting when you’re dropped you off at the end of your ride. No more need to urinate in public, thanks to city government.

“They aren’t regulated at all now,” said Grant Wilson, manager of Licenses and Consumer Services in Minneapolis.  Representatives from the pedal-pub industry (two companies are currently operating in Minneapolis) and city staff started meeting several months ago after City Hall began hearing complaints.

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“The main complaint is that people, after a tour, became loud,” Wilson said.

There were also complaints about pedal pub riders parking in residential neighborhoods and piddling on the bushes.

A single pedal pub can carry 16 paying passengers, which is enough to make some noise and strain parking and restroom facilities when arriving in a group.

“They (the pedal pub owners) didn’t like it, but common sense prevailed,” said Wilson.  The new regulations require that tours begin and end on private property that provides off street parking and restrooms.

“We’re going to relocate some of our tour routes,” said Eric Olson co-owner of PedalPub Twin Cities, which plans to team up with bars and restaurants and use their parking lots and restrooms to meet the new requirement. His company owns 12 pedal pubs and operates three in St. Paul, eight in Minneapolis and one in Shakopee.

Pedal Pubs arrived in Minneapolis in 2009, a year after state law was changed to allow consumption of alcohol on multi-passenger “bicycles.” The other company operating in Minneapolis and St. Paul is Traveling Tap.

In Minneapolis, the alcohol in question will be limited to beer and wine.

The same rule applies in St. Paul, which began regulating the pedal-pub business last summer.

“It’s basically a rolling liquor establishment,” said Council Member Diane Hofstede, who is sponsoring the new ordinance that will regulate pedal pubs. “The community has had some concerns, and we’ve had conversations with the industry to address those concerns.”

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The new Minneapolis regulations will require all tours to end by 10 p.m., the time Olson’s company currently ends tours. They also will ban the pedal pubs from downtown Minneapolis during the evening rush hour from 3:30 until 5.

Business has been good. During 2009, their first year of operation, 2009, PedalPubs Twin Cities conducted 700 tours. In 2012, they did 3,000 tours.

“It’s grown quite a bit,” said Olson, noting that the company gets a lot of repeat business and hosts everything from family reunions to corporate events and birthday parties. “People love this thing.”

Most tours last two hours with about half an hour, or four or five miles, of pedaling.  Of the 16 seats available, only 10 require pedaling, but it’s a workout that pedaling can be tough. With a full load, the pedal pubs weigh about two-and-a-half tons.

“When you hit the hills, it gets difficult,” said Olson but Minnesotans apparently are up for the challenge. “People want to get outside, we tend to be healthy and fit,” he said.

The new regulations will require licenses for the company and the drivers, inspections of the vehicles and $2 million worth of insurance. The license fees are the same as those now charged for a pedicab, which carries two or three passengers but does not serve alcohol.

Drivers will pay $59 for an annual license. The company will pay $98 for a license and another $135 for an annual inspection of each vehicle.

There is also a provision for a $500 administrative fine, which can be assessed if the pedal pub company does not comply with the new ordinance. That fine would double for the second violation and tops out at $2,000.

A public hearing on the ordinance is scheduled for 1:30 p.m. Monday before the City Council Regulatory, Energy and Environment Committee in Room 317 of Minneapolis City Hall.