ST. PETERSBURG — The 16-seat bikes that ferry revelers around to downtown bars could soon be even cheerier now that there are plans to allow riders to drink on board.
City leaders on Thursday gave tentative support to PedalPub’s request to allow riders to drink beer and wine while on their two-hour downtown excursions. Parties of up to 16 pedal the bike, which weigh about 2,000 pounds, around downtown at speeds of about 5 mph. The bikes are “piloted” by a company employee.
The company runs about 10 tours a month but estimates that would rise to 75 or 100 if riders can chug beer or sip wine while they pedal. No glass containers or liquor would be allowed on board.
Owners of PedalPub said the move will boost business for downtown bars and restaurants, where many of the tours make stops. Other cities where the so-called party bikes operate, including Rochester, Minn., and Austin, Texas, allow onboard drinking, they said.
“We can’t be successful here the way it is running,” PedalPub manager Krista Bartelson said.
The company began operating in St. Petersburg in December 2011. Regular routes, which average about 4 miles, include Beach Drive and Central Avenue.
The bikes, because they carry passengers, are exempt from the state ban on open alcoholic containers, but city code prohibits open containers in city rights-of-way, including roads, Assistant City Attorney Kim Proano said.
That has led to revelers trying to cram more stops for drinks into their two-hour trips.
“When you have the prohibition, that’s what it leads to,” city council member Jim Kennedy said.
Bartelson said tours in other cities show that when riders can drink on board, they are less rushed and more responsible.
“It’s a much more laid-back experience, whereas now people are really bar hopping,” she said. “It becomes more of a tour.”
Council members instructed city attorneys to work on an ordinance to allow drinking on the bikes. Their only concern was that the company carry sufficient insurance. The city requires the company to carry a $5 million insurance policy, already higher than any other city where similar businesses operate, Bartelson said.
A city council subcommittee will review proposed changes to the city’s ordinance before the full council votes on any measure.
PedalPub has two bikes in operation in St. Petersburg. If drinking on board is approved, it will likely need more.
“That would be a great problem,” Bartelson said.