Madison’s pedal pub pushes for beer on wheels

Lawmaker drafts bill to make some alcohol legal on tour

The implication for drinking is there: There are wooden table tops, which some might say are fit for a tap and a few pints of cold brews.

The front of the Capital Pedaler resembles a keg, though it is only used to store items for the ride.

Regardless, to the right beer-loving eye, it might look like the bicycle built for 14 is made for alcohol.

“There’s many people who say, well let us know. When you get alcohol on board, let us know, we’ll come,” Capital Pedaler co-owner Linda Besser said.

Besser and her business partner started the Madison-based pedal pub a couple years ago. Since then, she said business has been good, but she thinks it could be made even better if riders were allowed to enjoy a beer along the route.

Right now, state law prohibits such on-board refreshment.

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“The novelty of being on the bike is big,” Besser said. “But to be on the bike and have a cup here and be able to drink as you go up and down the sidewalk would be an even bigger novelty.”

Besser stressed there are two Capital Pedaler employees on the bike whenever customers are renting it out for the two-hour rides. One of those people is assigned to steering the 2,000-pound bike, and the other is there to keep an extra eye out for cars, pedestrians, and cyclists.

“The reality is people could go on a walking pub crawl and might be actually more of an issue for safety,” Rep. Jeff Stone said. “I think it really creates some supervision for people.”

Stone drafted a bill that would allow beer on board. Under that proposal, there would be no hard liquor allowed on the mobile taverns, but riders could bring two or three beers a person to enjoy as they pedal.

“It’s just one more attraction that makes Wisconsin summers work for the tourism industry,” Stone said.

The proposal is under revision by the Committee on Small Business Development, a legislative group Stone chairs for the State Assembly. Stone said presentations to that committee proved to him that millions of dollars in revenue for Wisconsin restaurants, hotels, and other venues could be linked to people taking advantage of the pedal pubs around the state.

“With the right rules in place, I think it can be very successful,” Stone said.

Even if the bill is made law, Besser said it would be up to the individual municipalities whether or not they would want to allow businesses to operate in their community.

The bikes operate mostly in Milwaukee and Madison, but Stone believes they could be successful in places like Eau Claire and La Crosse as well.

“If it makes it more fun, I’m behind it,” Besser said. “As long as the rules are in place, I think we’ll be able to pass it.”

Stone hoped the bill would be approved by the Committee on Small Business Development in the next few weeks, and possibly approved by the State Assembly by the end of the month.

It would still need the State Senate’s approval to become law.