Lovers of biking and drinking rejoice. A new booze-friendly trolley tour is pedaling into Ann Arbor.
Trolley Pub, which offers pedal-powered trolley tours in cities across the country and encourages riders of age to bring their own alcohol, is opening a branch in downtown Ann Arbor. The trolleys can transport up to 14 riders, who all help prop the trolley with foot pedals, similar to a paddle board.
The BYOB-style pub also offers hop-on, hop-off service at several Ann Arbor bars and local landmarks.
Ann Arbor Trolley Pub will start offering rides on Friday, beginning at the Heidelberg restaurant on Main Street. For the first two weeks, the company will offer free promotional rides. Customers are allowed to bring their own beer and wine for the journey, but will not be permitted to bring liquor.
Evan Wood, Trolley Pub’s regional manager based in North Carolina, helps set up new locations nationally. He said the company has been in communication with Ann Arbor officials to ensure a smooth launch.
“Before we start in new locations, we build a relationship and start conversations with the chief of police, City Council and anybody that may have a major role,” Wood said. “We do a lot of public relations so that we’re in no way inconspicuous.”
Amanda Swan, managing partner for the Ann Arbor Trolley Pub, said she is excited to get business started.
“It’s going to be really, really fun,” Swan said. “I’m excited to kick it off by having a complete public kick-off, like a meet and greet. Anyone can hop on and hop off.”
A 14-person private tour costs $375. However, if a party does not have enough people to fill the entire pedal pub, they can purchase $30 single tickets to ride on a “mixer” pedal-pub. Both options include a tour around the downtown area and the option to stop at bars along the route.
Swan said the pedal pub operates like any stationary restaurant or bar.
“We card everyone that wants to drink,” Swan said. “People that are over 21 get a stamp on their hand so we know they can drink and we have a tour conductor or driver that keeps an eye on things.”
Despite the drinking, guests as young as 13 years old are allowed to ride.
Trolley Pub first opened in North Carolina and has expanded around the country. Swan starting working for Trolley Pub in Madison, Wis. After she moved to Detroit, the company asked if she was interesting in setting up a location in Michigan. Swan told the company Ann Arbor would be the perfect location.
“I just love the restaurant scene. It’s such a fun downtown,” Swan said. “It’s something for everyone, and the energy is really good. People are open and relaxed, it’s fun and there’s a vibe. I’m excited to bring an interesting way to get around downtown and for people to see Ann Arbor.”
In July, Gov. Rick Snyder signed a law allowing individuals to consume beer and wine while pedaling from bar to bar. That means pedal trolleys in the state can now allow their customers to drink beer or wine while on board. However, individual cities are permitted to pass their own ordinances against drinking.
Ann Arbor does not currently have an ordinance outlining rules and regulations for pedal-powered pubs. City Councilmember Jane Lumm (I–Ward 2), who is a member of the Liquor License Review Committee, said the city is working to fast-track an ordinance.
“The Liquor License Advisory Committee and the city staff are at this time doing the necessary due diligence,” Lumm said. “We’re obtaining the necessary staff and stakeholder input to inform the development of an ordinance and policy recommendation for the committee’s consideration. The committee will then make a recommendation for council consideration.”
It is unclear whether drinking will be banned on the trolley pubs or merely regulated. Some cities, like Royal Oak, have voted to completely ban drinking on board.
Wood said the pedal pubs will respect whatever ordinance the city produces. He also said they would continue tours alcohol-free if necessary.
“We do a very good job of self-regulating and I think if it goes well-enough and they see how responsible we are, hopefully that will turn into less of a concern,” Wood said. “We like to not take advantage of the laws and city that we’re in.”
The city has also expressed concerns about customers of Trolley Pub exiting the vehicle with open containers. Wood said they have a zero-tolerance policy with open containers leaving the pedal pub.
“You wouldn’t walk out of a bar into the street with a beer or drink, so don’t do that here,” Wood said. “We put city laws and ordinances way before we worry about getting a bad review on Yelp or TripAdvisor.”