CLEARWATER — The City Council took another step to allowing megacycle passengers to drink beer and wine along Clearwater Beach.
Mayor George N. Cretekos was the lone “nay” vote on the Jan. 16, 4-1 vote to approve a change to the city’s code regulating alcoholic beverages.
Clay Irwin, the former owner of Lucky Anchor Irish Pub on Cleveland Street, hopes to launch a pedal-pub business in the next month. He apparently convinced the council to let him serve passengers alcohol during a six-month pilot program for the vehicles. Irwin said he was grateful for the permission.
“It’s great that they approved it,” Clayton told the Beacon. “That’s the only way the bikes work.”
Irwin said he is still negotiating with manufacturers to buy the odd-looking bars-on-wheels. Manufactured by companies with names like Pedal Crawler, Cycle Pub and Boozy Bikes, they range in price from $35,000 to more than $70,000 each. The rolling bars come with or without neon lights, have seating for 10 people and more, and are constructed of wood, metal, or other material. Some have ice coolers, wet sinks and trash cans like a regular bar.
Price: $40 a seat
Irwin says he plans to charge $40 a seat on the 16-seat rolling bars, for $640 a trip. The customers could pedal from bar to bar, hitting places like Shephard’s Beach Resort, Frenchy’s South Beach Café, and major hotels, though Irwin has not announced any agreements with businesses yet. The city will also regulate the hours the megacycles can operate; they could run booze-free trips during the day, showing people the sights in downtown, Irwin said.
The council put other limitations on the vehicles: Not only does the megacycle driver have to have a driver’s license, but a monitor must be present on board to supervise passengers. Only beer, wine, and hard cider with alcohol content less than 19 percent can be served. Passengers can drink only while on the cycle pubs. They cannot carry drinks to and from the vehicles; if they do, they are subject to open container fines of $118.
Megacycle passengers must be 21 when alcohol is being consumed; not only that, but all passenger stools must have vertical backs and seatbelts. When passengers younger than 16 are on the megacycles, they must wear helmets, which Irwin — and any other megacycle owner — must provide for free.
Alcohol fuels the business
To start the pilot program, Irwin had to first get the City Council’s permission to run the pedal pubs along the beach, where traffic congestion in the roundabout and elsewhere is a fact of life. The council approved the megacycle program at its Dec. 19 meeting, but without giving Irwin permission to serve beer and wine on the pedal pubs.
At that December meeting, Irwin exhorted the council to let him serve alcohol to his pedal pub customers. Irwin told councilmembers he could not run his business without it.
“I did my own survey in the beginning when I first started this venture because I had a feeling it might not go through,” Irwin told the council. “I felt it out about how people would feel about having alcohol and not having alcohol on the megacycles. It wasn’t good. I don’t think I found one person that said, ‘Oh yeah, that wouldn’t bother us at all.’”
Mayor: Honked horns, raised fingers
The council then asked Assistant City Attorney Matt Smith to write the exceptions to city’s open container law that would allow alcohol on pedal pubs. When they returned to work Jan. 16, the council approved the changes on first reading. The council needs one more vote, on second reading, to make it official.
Cretekos voted no after testing how the megacycles, which travel at about 15 mph, will be received by other drivers on Mandalay Avenue and South Gulfview Boulevard, the busy thoroughfares along the beachfront.
“How many of you have driven on Clearwater Beach at 15 mph?” the mayor asked his fellow councilmembers. “I did that in December. I’ve gotten fingers, honked horns, and I’ve had people pass me in no-passing lanes.”
Irwin doesn’t want the council to worry.
“Our pedal pubs won’t mess with traffic,” Irwin told the Beacon. We will just go with the traffic flow.”
Though Irwin is the first to request a pilot program for booze bikes, pedal pubs, megacycles — whatever one calls them — other companies can apply to participate in the pilot program. The council can stop the pilot program at any time should traffic and safety issue arise.