A company shutdown this week by the City of Chicago in a licensing dispute may try to move its operation to Evanston.

Pedal Pub announced Monday that it has closing its Chicago operation on orders of the city’s department of Business Affairs and Consumer Protection.

It had been running beer bike tours in Chicago for three years while seeking a license, but appeared to fall through the cracks of city licensing schemes.

And a company official says their next stop may be Evanston, because it’s a suburb that still has a city feel — and where traffic moves slowly enough for safe operation of the bikes.

The bikes, which retail for $40,000 each, feature seats for 16 people who pedal the contraption, while a driver controls the steering and brakes.

They’ve been used in Europe for years, as this 2008 YouTube video from Germany confirms.

And operators now reportedly run the beer bike businesses in dozens of U.S. cities.

But Mayor Elizabeth Tisdahl, Evanston’s liquor commissioner, seemed cool to the idea when asked about it by Evanston Now.

“Winter is coming. That may diminish enthusiasm for the concept,” she said, but added, “If they apply for a license, we will talk with them.”

And, in Minneapolis a resident who didn’t like the noise created by cruising drinkers, started an “I Hate the Pedal Pub” Facebook page, which was removed by Facebook after PedalPub’s lawyers complained.

Bill Smith is the editor and publisher of Evanston Now.

Join the Conversation


  1. LOL, big time

    Everyone in Evanston falls over laughing hysterically about the thought of even a conversation about beer bikes in Evanston. Where would such a bike conceivably travel? On the lakefront? On Sherman Ave? Oh, to have seen Liz Tisdahl try to keep a straight face.


  2. “Beer bikes” is a misnomer

    Let's be clear. They do not serve beer on the bikes. They rather tour restaurants/pubs where people can partake of whatever food and beverages that are on offer.

    The licensing dispute with Chicago has nothing to do with alcohol, but rather with how the bike is defined under Chicago's codes.  The company needs a charter vehicle license becuase of the number of passengers it can carry but Chicago only offers those types of licenses to motorized vehilces.

    It would be silly for the City to deny them a license.  It will bring people to the city, spread patrons to downtown restaurants, and reduce traffic congestion with a non-polluting vehicle.

    Mayor Tisdahl's views–as the chair of the liquor commission–are irrelevant.  Since they don't sell or serve beer they don't need a liquor license.  They would need a business license to operate a public passenger vehicle; and there is no provision in the city code to suggest that such vehicle needs to be motorized.

    If PedalPub goes to city hall, pays the $68 for a public passenger vehicle license they should be good to go.

    1. If the shoe fits …

      While it's difficult to know what the business model would be in Evanston, especially since the Chicago operation is now closed, it is clear from how the businesses operate in other cities that beer and in some cases wine is available for consumption on the bike at least in some communities.

      From the FAQ on the Rochester PedalPub website:

      "You may also bring wine (in boxes or plastic bottles), beer in (cans or plastic bottles), or other "malt beverages" like hard lemonade, wine coolers, or hard cider. Beer in a ‘pony’ keg (8 gallon) is also allowed. We have a tap for standard kegs, but we recommend you also bring a hand-tap, in case there is a malfunction of our tap. Homebrew ‘Corny’ kegs with pin-lock or ball-lock connections are okay, but you’ll need to bring your own carbonation source."

      — Bill

      1. The law is pretty clear- no booze

        Actually, the law is pretty clear. It is the state law banning open containers. They have been following it in Chicago. Because it is state law there would be no difference between their operation in either city:

        "Can I drink alcohol on the PedalPub®?

        At this time the Illinois open container law prohibits the consumption of alcohol ONBOARD the PedalPub. Passengers may enjoy alcohol in the bars and pubs in the neighborhoods we visit."

  3. Lots of fun!

    While enjoying a fall weekend in Holland, MI, the missus and I helped pedal a beer bike sponsored by New Holland Brewing. It was lots of fun! Don't knock it, till you try it.

    1. I was just in Holland,

      I was just in Holland, Michigan this past weekend.  It is a different setting than Evanston with relatively little traffic, at least at this time of year, and less congestion. I also saw very few if any bikes. One thing they do have is heated sidewalks!

  4. Please no

    The problems are summarized well in other posts – there's really nowhere to ride these in Evanston and since they don't sell beer but rather are merely for transit during "bar crawls" they probably don't need a liquor license. 

    I moved out of Chicago to downtown Evanston specifically because it is a reasonably quiet area that is still highly walkable and close to the Lake. I have been here for three years and absolutely love it (other than the property taxes, but even those are kind of worth it given the quantity of police patrols in my neighborhood). I specifically wanted to get away from drunk hipsters making a lot of noise and trying to gain attention. The average volume emanating from one of these things is on par with a party full of high school girls who have each consumed 2 bottles of Zima and lost all semblance of volume control, but are nowhere near passing out. I'd rather listen to a car alarm for an hour. 

    I like the enhanced commerce they could possibly bring to three or four bars in Evanston, but if the City is that hard up for money, just go ahead and tack on $50 to my property taxes and call it the "Peace and Quiet Tax." I won't complain about that tax. 

    Please Mayor, save us from this. 

  5. Beer bikes would be great in Evanston

    When I traveled to Pittsburgh this year I saw a beer bike.  From my view there was a keg and people were drinking on the bike, but they have different open container laws.

     In opposition to the other comments, I think this would be great.  Now that Northwestern is considered "Chicago's team" why not bring a little Big Ten spirit drinking to the town.  Traffic in Evanston is already hindered by normal construction work. A beer bike seems kind of minimal in the backup it would cause.  I think the mayor should consider it.  

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