A month-long push by some City Council members to formally regulate commercial quadricycles — commonly referred to as “trolley pubs” — passed Monday night, albeit without the restrictions on alcohol that were originally proposed, in an 8-to-2 vote. The new ordinance will bar quadricycle tour operators from running on days of special events when streets are closed.
According to the new ordinance, trolley pub companies will not be allowed to operate on days of stadium events, like University of Michigan home football games, or any event with authorized street closures, like the Ann Arbor Art Fair.
Nonetheless, language that would have barred these companies from allowing their patrons to consume alcohol was removed from the ordnance in a June 7 City Council meeting.
Councilmember Jane Lumm (I–Ward 2) reiterated concerns from previous meetings over what she viewed as contradictions with existing laws against public alcohol consumption. Lumm argued that it makes no sense to allow for the consumption of alcohol on trolley tours when there already exists laws that prohibit the carrying of open alcohol containers in public.
Jack Eaton (D–Ward 4) voiced concerns that the decision to allow alcohol consumption on trolleys does not coincide with the recommendations of both the Ann Arbor Police Department and the University Police Department.
“Because I am concerned that we are disregarding the advice of our police department and the Public Safety Department of the University of Michigan, I will not be supporting this,” Eaton said. “I believe that allowing alcohol, in the face of advice to the contrary, is ill advised, so I will be voting against this”.
During the public hearing, representatives from the two trolley companies spoke with the council about issues of safety and allowance to operate during times of street closures. They asked for clarification on issues such as operation restrictions on days of University football games and the Ann Arbor Art Fair.
Dave Cicotte, owner of High Five Pedal Tours, testified to the council about his personal experience operating a trolley during a day when there were scheduled street closures, explaining that he had no problems regarding safety or traffic. Cicotte said, due to the size of the downtown area, there is plenty of space for his trolley to operate during city events and street shutdowns without causing any problems.
He further expressed how the limitations or banning of trolleys in Ann Arbor would have a greater impact beyond his own company.
“It is in some ways going to inhibit business — not just business for us, but also for the surrounding businesses that are in downtown,” Cicotte said. “For instance, the Convention and Visitors Bureau booked with us for travel writers from all around the country to come on the trolley to experience Ann Arbor, and that just happened to be on a day where there were street closures and events. If we are not able to operate on days with such events, I am unable to take people such as travel writers around the city.”
Tristan Steven, owner of Trolley Pub Ann Arbor, echoed Cicotte’s sentiments. He placed an emphasis on safety as a point of focus for his operation.
“Myself and my staff have been trained to make sure that all people that ride on the trolley take it as a serious engagement that is supposed to be fun but also safe,” he said.
After the meeting was adjourned, Cicotte spoke with the Daily about his impressions following the vote. He talked about how the prohibition of operation during football games will place limitations on his ability to market his business.
“It is sort of a bummer as far as no operation at all on days that there is an event at the Michigan Stadium, partly because a big portion of being able to advertise the bikes and everything is to actually be on the streets doing tours,” Cicotte said.
Despite this being written into the city code, he expressed happiness with the overall outcome. He said that if he were to propose further amendments in the future, it would be to address critical issues facing his business, like problems with safety.
“I am extremely happy with the way that it has gone,” he added. “If I was to oppose an amendment or bring something to the City Council, it would have to be something that would be completely altering as far as operation goes. Definitely if there is a safety issue, that is my number one concern.”