City councillors steer pedal pubs one step closer to Toronto streets — but no drinks while biking

They’ve been described as a cross between a bar, a spin class and a parade, and they may soon be coming to downtown Toronto.

Pedal Pubs — bicycles built for 17 — got the green light on Friday from the city’s general government and licensing committee.

The bicycles are meant to be pedaled around town by a group of people while they are served alcohol, but in Toronto no drinks will be served while biking — customers will cycle between two or three breweries over a two-hour period.

A driver, who is not permitted to drink, controls the speed, steering and braking for the 16 passengers.

The concept must still be approved by the full city council at the next meeting in May, but the future looks bright to operator Lyle Jones, co-founder of Pedal Pub Toronto.

His website is up and running, and he’s ready to go in the time it takes for council to approve the idea and issue licenses for the bikes, which Jones estimates could be as early as June.

Pedal pubs are already popular in other cities, including Calgary and Niagara-on-the-Lake. The idea originated in the Netherlands in 1996 and the bikes are still manufactured there.

A report from city staff had recommended the city either refuse to allow the bikes or issue only two licences.

An amendment to increase the number of licenses to eight was introduced at the committee meeting on Friday by Coun. Paul Ainslie (Ward 24 Scarborough Guildwood) and carried.

Jones said the pedal pub idea would not have been viable with one or two bikes, and lobbied the city for more.

“We’re very happy that they listened to us and took into account our concerns and we can now operate the four bikes that we need to have a viable business,” Jones said.

The tours, which will take place in downtown Toronto — Jones says he has yet to finalize the routes — start at $599.

The bikes may operate seven days a week during the summer, but not during morning or evening rush hours.

Jones said the trips are popular with people celebrating birthdays, holding bachelorette parties, and with companies as a team-building exercise.

Roselle Martino, vice-president of public policy for the Toronto Region Board of Trade, wrote a letter to the city in support of increasing the number of pedal pub licenses issued.

“Pedal pubs would be an economic multiplier for the city, drawing new visitors to food and drink establishments that have been among the hardest-hit businesses during the pandemic and exposing visitors to neighborhoods in the city they may not otherwise visit,” Martino wrote.

The licenses are good for one year.

Jones said provincial regulations prevent serving alcohol on the bikes.

“We’d love to be able to serve alcohol on the bikes, but it’s not integral to the experience.”

Francine Kopun is a Toronto-based reporter covering city hall and municipal politics for the Star. Follow her on Twitter: @KopunF


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