It’s green, 19 feet long, runs on 20 legs and produces a bit of a buzz.
No, we’re not talking mutant insect. This is the Spokane Party Trolley – an environmentally friendly, pedal-powered pub on wheels, complete with keg tap, that relies on its riders for fuel as it travels between stops.
“You’ve got to work for your beer on this,” said Nina Kindem, who just launched the business out of the Saranac Building, 17 W. Main Ave.
Groups can rent the trolley for two hours or more. Up to five people on each side pump the pedals. There’s room for five others to sit, plus space for a standing host/bartender in the middle. A company-provided pilot perched up front keeps things under control and on schedule.
“They’re not there so much to enforce the rules as to make sure everyone has a good time,” Kindem said. “When you’re drinking and pedaling, it’s easy to get off track.”
The concept originated in Amsterdam in the late 1990s and has been spreading throughout Europe and the United States. The “beer bikes” go by Cycle Pub in Bend, Ore., and Boise; Party Pedaler in Charlotte, N.C.; and PedalPub in Chicago and Minneapolis/St. Paul.
Kindem, a 1981 West Valley High School graduate, grew up in the Twin Cities. She heard about the PedalPub through a friend there whose brother and his business partner are the U.S. distributors for the original Dutch design.
“After three minutes of looking at their website, I said, ‘I’m in,’ ” Kindem said. “I knew Spokane would be perfect. We have a beautiful downtown for this.”
Since her trolley arrived Aug. 20, she has mostly been conducting test rides – including packed crowds at Pig Out in the Park – and developing itineraries.
Three downtown routes are in place so far: two pub crawls with slightly different destinations, and a sightseeing tour along the Spokane River.
Prices for standard two-hour rentals (up to three stops recommended) run $300 on weekdays, $340 on weekends. Longer, custom tours also are available for extra rental and transportation fees; routes must be pre-approved by the pilot.
Bike helmets are offered for safety’s sake (though not mandatory), or you can bring your own. The pilot steers and controls the brakes.
To avoid traffic snarls, downtown routes generally avoid the busiest arterials and stay on streets with adequate places to pull over if necessary.
“We want this to be something that’s fun, not annoying,” Kindem said. “There have been a few (drivers) who have wanted to get past me. It’s not a problem. We only go about 4 miles per hour.”
While the trolley is designed for drinking, you certainly don’t have to imbibe to participate. Kindem suggests it can be used for everything from ice cream socials to corporate team-building events. (Riders younger than 18 are allowed if accompanied by a parent.)
No alcohol is allowed on board anyway unless everyone is 21 or older; even then, hard liquor is prohibited.
And if people are bringing their own booze, Kindem limits the trip to two hours, regardless of route. It’s for their own good, she said: “There’s a point where people get to be a little bit too flaccid. For a while, drinking beer might make you feel like a better athlete, but at some point you just get tired.”
While as few as six riders can theoretically operate the trolley, the more on board, the lower the cost per person – and the easier the pedaling.
“It’s like a single-gear Schwinn. You feel it on the slightest incline,” said Kindem, who avoids anything more than a 5 percent grade. (That may be less of an issue for the group of triathletes who have booked a custom tour next month.)
For those who can’t get a larger crowd together, she’s planning weeknight mixers where smaller groups can pool their resources.
“I’m a big believer in bringing people together to have a good time,” Kindem said. “We’re in sore need of that.”
Progressive dinner routes, with wine tasting, also are in the works. By pre-arrangement, participants could choose to stop at different restaurants for different courses.
Kindem is looking at a Green Bluff route for fall. And while prime season runs through October, some colder-weather trips are a possibility, including First Night: “If there’s no snow on the ground, or if there’s some snow on the ground and we can pedal over it, we’ll still do it.”
Down the road, she hopes to expand the business by adding another trolley or two. Beer bike races, anyone?