After spending the last few years in Boise flipping houses, Mike Thomas went to visit friends in Bend, Ore., and found an unusual business opportunity cruising the streets: Cycle Pub.
Thomas knew he had to bring it back to Boise.
"Boise and Bend are very similar culturally and seeing the marriage of craft beer--which is up and coming in Boise--and bicycling, which is already established in Boise, just made sense," Thomas said. "Additionally, Boise is much flatter than Bend, so I thought it would be much more workable."
What is Cycle Pub? Call it a limo for the green movement, or a Rube Goldberg-esque way to make the several block jaunt between downtown bars more whimsical. But in straight terms, Cycle Pub is a 14-seat, pedal-powered bar that Boiseans can rent to facilitate their downtown pub crawl. It is the size of a large cargo van and looks like a beach cantina on wheels. You may have seen it out on a few test runs late in 2011, but Cycle Pub Boise officially launched in April.
"We got the bike in September, and it was a lengthy process to get through the city," said Thomas.
The reason it was lengthy was that the lack of a motor on the bike creates a gray area in Idaho's open container laws. Though Thomas has a commercial driver's license to operate the bike, like a limousine or party bus driver, the city hadn't yet dealt with a bike bar and had to create a new ruling. Unlike Bend and Reno, Nev., the ruling unfortunately was that Cycle Pub cannot have beer on board, something Thomas feels greatly enhances its novelty and utility for outdoor events. That's why he is already at work trying to change things.
"We're going to have to lobby to the state," he said. "The city's hands are tied."
Cycle Pub requires at least 10 people to power, though Thomas is in the process of installing an electric assist motor.
The experience of riding on Cycle Pub is something like being on a float in a parade, with gawkers waving, rubber-necking and snapping photos as the bike slowly rolls by. The ultra-low gearing on the bike also makes the experience a bit like running from bar to bar, though it is a far lower impact way to work off the calories that come with a couple of microbrews.
There is also a good chance that people will try to jump on board as the bike rolls by. Boise Weekly's test ride picked up local musician Dan Costello as we rolled down Main Street.
But the biggest thing people should know before going for a ride is that it's not a taxi.
"We want people to book Cycle Pub for the purpose of touring the craft beer scene," Thomas said. "We're not a drunk bus."