published Wednesday, April 2nd, 2014

Chattanooga City Council delays beer-on-pedicabs vote

The owners and friends of Pints & Pedals move the vehicle down Market Street on the way to Track 29.
The owners and friends of Pints & Pedals move the vehicle down Market Street on the way to Track 29.
Photo by Angela Lewis.

Whether 15 people should have the freedom to strap a cooler of beer to the back of a pedal-powered pedicab and ride across downtown Chattanooga is in the hands of the City Council.

The owners of Pints and Pedals and Chattanooga Brew Choo -- two pedicab companies in the Scenic City -- asked officials Tuesday to pass an ordinance to allow them to turn their human-powered machines into mobile bars.

But the request was met with an hour-and-a-half of confusion by city officials wanting to know why these engine-less vehicles should be allowed to bypass the city's open container law that restricts customers from walking down city streets with alcohol.

"So they're not going to sell the beer? How does the beer get there?" asked Councilwomen Carol Berz. "I bring a six-pack and start pedaling?"

After officials asked dozens of questions on alcohol law enforcement and hypothetical situations involving whether other businesses like horse-drawn carriages would catch on to the idea, Councilman Chris Anderson suggested officials delay making a decision for a week. This should give city attorneys enough time, he said, to research how other cities like Nashville safely monitor their low-powered boozemobiles without breaking state laws.

"I have voted yes on every issue dealing with alcohol freedom," Anderson said. "But there are a lot of questions lingering ... this is in my district mostly and in my neighborhood, and I want to find a way to make it work."

The City Council unanimously agreed to wait a week. Meanwhile the hashtag #alcoholfreedom spread on Twitter.

In November, Rufus Marye, owner of Chattanooga Brew Choo, and owner of Pints and Pedals Dax Turner acquired a permit to start to allow their drivers to lead groups on pedicabs to bars and restaurants in the Southside and downtown. Marye said he already had a company in Nashville and decided to expand to Chattanooga.

The owners said the idea has caught on and they are getting calls to book the pedicabs for birthday parties, bachelorette parties and all types of adult celebration for locals and tourists.

"From a tourism standpoint, when somebody comes to Chattanooga we want them to say 'I want to come back," Turner told the City Council. "That positive impact is important. It gives us that one other piece of the puzzle for things to do at night and gives our tourists another option."

Other officials said they fear that booze and pedaling don't mix, and they worry about safety.

"I just don't think it's going to be a good idea -- people consuming alcohol beverages out in public like that," said Councilman Chip Henderson. "Does that open the door for people to ride around in horse-drawn carriages? What other doors does it open up?"

Next week officials will vote on the ordinance, and Councilman Moses Freeman suggested officials tack on a one-year clause. If the pedicab owners can safely maneuver the party wagons through the city, he suggested, they would be allowed to keep the beer on board for customers 21 years and older.

Contact staff writer Joy Lukachick at jlukachick@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6659.

about Joy Lukachick Smith...

Joy Lukachick Smith is the city government reporter for the Chattanooga Times Free Press. Since 2009, she's covered crime and court systems in North Georgia and rural Tennessee, landed an exclusive in-prison interview with a former cop convicted of killing his wife, exposed impropriety in an FBI-led, child-sex online sting and exposed corruption in government agencies. Earlier this year, Smith won the Malcolm Law Memorial Award for Investigative Reporting. She also won first place in ...

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