A Naperville resident wants to launch a business leading people on tours of the downtown on a 15-person bicycle of sorts called a Pedal Pub -- and she wants them to be able to bring their own booze.
But the city doesn't know how to regulate BYOB on a pedal-powered, SUV-sized vehicle, so the liquor commission couldn't make a recommendation about the request. The panel plans to address the matter again next month.
"We don't have enough information," Mayor and Liquor Commissioner Steve Chirico told O'Brien's Pedal Pub owner Monica Bennett on Thursday. "We don't know legally where we stand and if you need to be before us."
Bennett came before the liquor commission seeking permission to allow guests to bring their own beer to drink while riding the pub-on-wheels between bars and restaurants in downtown Naperville. She said the Pedal Pubs, which already are popular in cities such as Champaign, Denver, Detroit, Indianapolis and Nashville, are bound to be a presence in the suburbs soon, and she wants to get ahead of the trend.
But success as a Pedal Pub, Bennett said, could hinge on the ability to allow alcohol onboard for riders, who sit facing each other on two long benches as they pedal the mini bar along the street.
"I don't want the Naperville one to die on the vine. Because this is coming," Bennett said about the new business model, which she likened to a trolley tour. "I don't want to put all this time and energy into this and then have myself undercut in another city."
Some members of the liquor commission said they've ridden and enjoyed Pedal Pubs in other cities, although Whitney Robbins said she was a skeptic at first.
"I've done these. They're fun," Robbins said. "I like the idea; it's something different to do in Naperville."
Despite the fact the Pedal Pub would be led by a sober driver and would include a small motor to augment pedal power, some said it could be a risky combination.
Commissioners also expressed concerns about the amount of drinking Pedal Pub patrons could do in what Bennett laid out as a two-hour tour, with stops planned at Quigley's Irish Pub and Potter's Place. Riders could have a drink or two at each bar, and Bennett asked for two drinks to be allowed on the Pedal Pub as well.
"You can't drink and ride a bike," Commissioner Scott Wehrli said. "It sounds like a party bus bar crawl with drinking in between."
The city's legal team is reviewing whether a business like the Pedal Pub would need a liquor license to allow BYOB. If not, the practice could be allowed without city oversight.
Even so, Chirico told Bennett she needs to have the vehicle evaluated by the city's transportation advisory board.
Bennett said she contacted the Illinois Department of Transportation and Secretary of State's office and was told she did not need a license plate for the bike-mobile.
She plans to start the business with two or three Pedal Pubs hosting tours seven days a week, with the latest one each day beginning at 8 p.m.