‘Pedal tavern’ proposal has uncertain prospects in Easthampton

  • A pedal tavern in Nashville. WIKIPEDIA COMMONS

Staff Writer
Published: 1/18/2019 11:42:16 AM

EASTHAMPTON — Dubbed a “pedal tavern” in other parts of the country, a Chicopee resident is proposing to open an alcohol friendly biking service in Easthampton, which would be the first of its kind in Massachusetts.

“We are working on getting things approved,” Nick Vautrin, who pitched the idea to city officials, said about the business he is calling “Pedal N’ Party.” 

Picture, if you can, a 17-person, electric-assisted bicycle where patrons bring their own alcoholic beverages (minus hard liquor) and are taken on a tour of downtown Easthampton along the Manhan Rail Trail.

Manufactured in China, the pedal tavern has two standing bars facing each other, is just under 8-feet wide by about 17-feet long and is 8.5-feet high on top of four wheels. 

“All seats have seat belts, and people bring their own drinks,” Vautrin, 29, told the city’s licensing board at a meeting on Nov. 5. “We ask them to give us the beer to put in a cooler so that drinking can be monitored.”

Ten people would assist with the pedaling and the other five passengers would be taken along for a scenic ride. A steering bike driver and a host would refrain from drinking, according to Vautrin, for a total of 17 maximum passengers. 

Pending permission from the city of Easthampton, bike riders could bring no more than 60 ounces of beer or 750 milliliters of wine, Vautrin said, and his employees would be TIPS certified, meaning they have training for responsibly serving alcohol. The tentative months of operation would be from March to November, according to Vautrin’s business plan.  

The tour would begin at the Delaney House in Holyoke, travel along Route 5 into Easthampton, and then get on the Manhan Rail Trail for a tour of local breweries – such as Fort Hill, New City and Abandon Building – and into downtown.

The pedal tavern has gotten the nod of approval from Manhan Rail Trail Committee, Vautrin said. The bike path is 9-feet wide, allowing enough room for the bike and fellow rail bikers, baby strollers and wheelchairs. 

“It fits on the trail nicely,” Vautrin said. “And the seats overhang on the grass-side and when we pull over there is room for everyone.” 

He said all proceeds from recyclable cans and bottles would go towards the trail’s maintenence fund. 

Vautrin met with the city’s licensing board in November to pitch his idea, although there are no licenses for him to apply for from that particular board, according to board member Kelly A. Richey.

“It was his idea he was bringing before us. He may have been looking for feedback, but really there is no feedback we can give him,” Richey said last Friday.

She added, “It was not a public hearing, just an informational presentation … There is nothing for us to vote on, no licenses to give. The concern was, is it against the law to be drinking alcoholic beverages outside?”

Pedal taverns have become popular sight-seeing tours in cities such as Nashville, San Diego and Austin.

In Nashville, where drinking in public is permissible in parts of the city, pedal taverns operate in compliance with the law.

For Easthampton, this would be “uncharted territory,” Richey said.

Vautrin said during his presentation that Easthampton’s ordinances provide a key provision which can allow public for consumption with the city’s approval. He added, were they to step off the bike with alcohol, then that would be a violation. 

“If someone gets off the bike with alcohol, which they are not allowed to do, they could be subject to a $100 fine and even arrest,” Vautrin said.

Richey said that this bike service would not be under the licensing board’s jurisdiction, but rather a law enforcement question. 

Easthampton Police Chief Robert Alberti said that the open container law in Easthampton is an arrestable offense barring an exemption granted from the city council. 

Certain types of vehicles such as limousines or party buses are allowed to have open containers under Massachusetts state law. However, since the pedal tavern is not a motor vehicle, it does not fall under the same category. 

Whether Vautrin will be allowed to drive passengers drinking on the pedal tavern in Easthampton raises legal questions over whose jurisdiction it falls under. 

Vautrin will most likely have to go before a legislative body for an exemption from the open container law, according to licensing board clerk Alan Wolf, but whether that’s from Beacon Hill or Easthampton city council is not yet clear. 

“It may require a change in ordiance or law so that (Vautrin) is not in violation of the open container vehicle law,” Wolf said on Tuesday.

Either way, Vautrin would open his business without the booze even if he does not get an exemption, he said. 

“It’s going to be fun regardless,” Vautrin said. “But if we get BYOB it’s going to be such an attraction, for us and Easthampton.”  

Luis Fieldman can be reached at lfieldman@gazettenet.com

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