At the time of writing, two 16-seater mobile pubs have rounded the tip of South Africa on a lengthy boat voyage from their place of conception in Amsterdam, towards their first Australian home, Adelaide.
“There’s no motor, it’s got four wheels and it’s 100 per cent pedal-powered, by the customers,” explains HandleBar co-owner, US-based entrepreneur Stephen Lindsay, who gave up his career as an engineer at Rolls Royce to focus on the HandleBar.
The four-wheel, open frame vehicles, about the size of a family car, have allowed tourists and revellers to take in the sights and sounds of dozens of US, European and Asian cities – beer in hand – since the vehicles were first tested by brothers Henk and Zwier Van Laar in the Netherlands in the 1990s.
Lindsay and so-owner Jason Seris have operated nine of the Amsterdam-manufactured vehicles in the US since they took up the venture in 2012.
The “bikes” arrive on Adelaide’s streets late this month, allowing customers to book two-hour tours, pedalling around the CBD at a little under 10 kilometres per hour, drinking mostly South Australian beers and wines and stopping off at choice locations.
“We picked Adelaide because we like the size,” says Lindsey.
“There are a lot of obstacles to trying to start something in a larger city. And we’ve noticed from experience in the us that a slightly smaller city is generally more receptive, and you can have a bigger impact.”
“We’ll have, we hope, a pretty positive impact on a city of this size.
“While we tour around, the driver, of course, steers, and the customers, of course, pedal and they always have a good time.
“Some people are worried that it’s a bit of a workout – it’s not, I promise you, as long as you’ve got friends that all participate and you’re not doing it all yourself.”
Lindsay says he is in the final stages of securing a liquor licence for the vehicles, having spent months consulting with various arms of government to make sure the HandleBar would be legal to tour in South Australia.
Though the vehicle’s acceleration is provided collectively by the drinking passengers, steering and braking is the responsibility of the driver – or “bar handler”.
So, Lindsey insists, there will be no issue about “drink driving”.
“While they’re cruising around the city, the bike itself has the license and therefore it’s legal to drink on it,” he says.
“We have a designated driver – we have a bar handler – that maintains control and operation of the vehicle at all times.
“The riders … don’t have control of any of the important features, like steering or braking.”
According to a spokesperson for the Adelaide City Council, “all concerns regarding vehicle compliance and safety, food and alcohol service, waste disposal, suitable city routes and occasional stopping points have been satisfied”.
“Meetings and extensive consultation with the relevant Council Administration representatives has been undertaken, as well as with Government Agencies such as SAPOL and DPTI, plus industry bodies such the AHA,” the spokesperson tells InDaily.
“Our Enterprise Adelaide Team has also been working closely with the applicants to help them through the application process.”
Lindsey has also agreed with the Adelaide City Council to avoid Hindley Street so as to not create more congestion, as well as the larger CBD roads.
Lindsey, who will drive one of the vehicles, says he and his business partner have been in discussion with local bars – including the Gilbert Street Hotel – about stopping off during the tours.
“We want to stop at locations where bar owners welcome us, o right now we’re trying to feel out the good stopping points for our customers,” he says.
Bookings for groups of 16 in Adelaide will cost $400 Sunday-Thursday and $500 Friday-Saturday. Bookings open on Monday, and the first tour is expected to kick off in the city on February 27.
Munich Brauhaus operates a similar vehicle for tours of Melbourne’s CBD, but a spokesperson said no consumption or sale of alcohol occurs on the vehicle.
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