By Mary Spicuzza
The Wisconsin State Journal
People pedaling their own pub around town might be a reality in Madison by spring.
Last month, Gov. Scott Walker signed a bill that legalizes drinking beer on commercial quadricycles — four-wheeled vehicles powered by multiple people using bicycle-type pedals.
That means riders on Madison’s “Capitol Pedaler” won’t have to leave behind their beer when the big, red 14-passenger trolley-like bike reopens for the season on St. Patrick’s Day. Currently, only non-alcoholic drinks are allowed on board.
“It’s going to add to the fun,” said Linda Besser, one of the owners of the Capitol Pedaler. “It’s such a novelty pedaling around Downtown. If you can have a drink, it adds to the novelty.”
Under the new state law, municipalities can adopt an ordinance blocking pedal pubs.
Madison Mayor Paul Soglin said he intends to introduce a proposal early next year to have the city opt out of the state law, saying bicycling and beer don’t mix.
But it’s unclear how much support a ban would have on the City Council.
“My position is this: I believe that we should allow pedal pubs the opportunity to prove themselves in Madison,” said Ald. Mike Verveer, 4th District.
Verveer, who represents the core Downtown, said the Capitol Pedaler has been a model business so far.
“I’ve known each of those women for years, and I think the world of them,” Verveer said of the Capitol Pedaler’s owners, Besser and Sandy Theune.
The Capitol Pedaler has been in operation since St. Patrick’s Day 2011, and since then it has been used for a variety of events including weddings, birthday pub crawls, anniversaries and corporate meetings. Its season runs through the first weekend in November.
Besser said business has doubled every year that the unique bike has been in operation, and she expects the new law allowing beer on board will provide another big boost. She’s already planning on hiring more staff.
Customers rent the huge bike, but it always comes with a driver who handles things like braking and steering, and a second person, known as a “first mate,” to help out. The driver is prohibited from drinking on duty, a provision that is also in the new law.
Besser, a retired Madison police detective, started the business with Theune, a retired Madison police lieutenant, about three years ago. Besser said the law will mean steeper insurance costs but was excited about the change allowing beer.
“We’re looking forward to being able to offer that,” she said.
The Milwaukee Pedal Tavern, a similar group-powered bicycle, is also expected to allow beer on board as a result of the law.
Under the law, passengers can drink up to 36 fluid ounces of beer, or about three beers. A commercial quadricycle company will not be allowed to operate after 10:30 p.m. And the bicycles cannot sell alcohol, so it will be strictly a “bring your own” affair, Besser said.
Sen. Glenn Grothman, R-West Bend, the lead Senate sponsor of the bill, said he had never been on a pedal pub — yet.
“Maybe I’ll hook a ride if I see one zipping around the Square,” Grothman said. “Maybe if there’s an open seat, I can do the loop.”