Drinking on commercial quadricycles, or “pedal taverns,” could soon be legal across the state in a move legislators hope could boost tourism.
Bill sponsor Sen. Glenn Grothman, R-West Bend, said in a public hearing Wednesday the measure would help the “up and coming” pedal tavern industry grow and also create a safer environment for passengers. Wisconsin legislators unanimously passed the bill out of committee and onto the Senate.
Current law does not allow alcohol consumption on pedal taverns since the consumption occurs in a public place without an alcohol license. The bill would add pedal taverns to the list of exceptions to the law, which currently includes county parks, schools, churches and athletic fields or stadiums.
Passengers would be allowed 36 ounces of beer while on pedal taverns, which make stops at various taverns during the rides. The bill would prohibit hard liquor on board.
Pedal tavern drivers would not be allowed to drink alcohol while operating the quadricycle and would have to maintain a blood alcohol level below .02 under the bill.
Milwaukee Pedal Tavern co-owner Derek Collins said many of his riders come from places like Iowa, Chicago and northern Indiana and contribute to the Milwaukee economy by getting hotel rooms and going to dinner and bars while planning a pedal tavern ride.
In 2012 alone, Collins said he and fellow owner Ryan Lloyd brought in about $1.3 million in tourism revenue to Milwaukee between the hotels, taxis, bars and restaurants their 19,600 customers attended or used.
“The cool thing about it is people saying, ‘I haven’t been down in this area in 20 years,’” Lloyd said. “It is like an interactive marketing campaign for the area because it brings people in from the city who don’t come down to those parts of the city.”
However, in 2013, after the City of Milwaukee prohibited operating the rides with alcohol, as it violated state law prohibiting alcohol consumption on public property, ridership numbers declined.
Collins said Milwaukee likely lost between $695,000 and $900,000 in tourism revenue due to the enforcement of current law.
Their business also had to cut jobs for drivers because of fewer customers, Lloyd added.
Sen. Jerry Petrowski, R-Marathon, said he doubted the pedal taverns could contribute as much to tourism revenue as Boyd and Collins said.
“I don’t see people coming to just pedal on your bike, people come for other things,” Petrowski said.
Julia Sherman, coordinator for the Wisconsin Alcohol Policy Project, said the bill is part of a larger pattern of bills coming before the Legislature in recent years that aim to increase the availability of alcohol in the state.
Should the bill pass, drinking openly in public would help normalize excessive alcohol use, which Wisconsin already has a problem with, she said.
“This bill makes binge drinking on our streets a publicly sanctioned event,” Sherman said. “When you expand availability of alcohol, you normalize alcohol use and you will leave an impression on children.”