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Michigan Liquor Law Blog

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Pedal Pubs Given the Green Light

In a number of Michigan communities, a new form of chauffeured transportation has emerged in recent years. Companies have begun offering rides on four-wheeled open-air vehicles capable of seating around a dozen passengers, who propel the vehicle using pedals while a single paid operator handles the steering and braking.  These quadricycles, or “pedal pubs,” are frequently used to shuttle riders between bars, effectively turning them into a self-propelled transportation tool for pub crawls.  Under the current regulatory scheme, however, passengers cannot legally consume alcohol while on a quadricycle.

Now, in response to the ambiguous regulations governing licensing and operation of these vehicles, the Michigan Senate has proposed a number of quadricycle-specific laws, including approval for passengers to possess open alcohol containers while onboard, general regulations for operation, and authorization for local units of government to further regulate or prohibit operation.

These proposed changes, contained in Senate Bills 0165 and 0166, were approved by the House on June 18th, 2015, and have now been sent back to the Senate for final approval (for procedure, not substance).  The final step will be the Governor’s approval, which we hope to see in early July.

Under Senate Bill 0166, a quadricycle is defined as:

  1. Has fully operative pedals for propulsion entirely by human power.
  2. Has at least four wheels and is operated in a manner similar to a bicycle.
  3. Has at least six seats for passengers.
  4. Is designed to be occupied by a driver and powered either by passengers providing pedal power to the vehicle’s drive train or by a motor capable of propelling the vehicle in the absence of human power.
  5. Is used for commercial purposes.
  6. Is operated by the vehicle’s owner or an employee of the owner.

Notably, the legislation provides that commercial quadricycles are not motor vehicles.

At the core of the legislation, unless prohibited by local ordinance, passengers will be allowed to possess, consume, and transport alcohol on a quadricycle. The prevailing thought is that by allowing a passenger to drink, they can better regulate the pace at which they drink instead of quickly consuming their drinks before leaving each stop. For consumers, this is an exciting new opportunity and experience – especially for those in larger cities.

In addition to permitting alcohol consumption on quadricycles, the pair of Senate bills will create stricter standards for operators, ensuring the safety of passengers.  Within Senate Bill 0165 are several such regulations, the first of which is to require the owner of a commercial quadricycle to obtain bodily injury and damage liability insurance with a minimum limit of $2 million.  Furthermore, this bill bans operators from having any alcohol in their system while actively operating the quadricycle.  All operators must possess a valid driver license (if the quadricycle is equipped with a motor), may only operate quadricycles at low speed roads, and are responsible for ensuring that their quadricycle meets proper visibility requirements.  The combined effect of these regulations is to simultaneously open up new opportunities for quadricycle operators while simultaneously implementing standards that will serve to decrease the risk of injury or other adverse effects.

Both pieces of legislation passed unanimously in the Senate and by a wide margin in the House. It is expected that the Governor will sign both bills when they reach his desk.

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*This information and thoughts herein are provided by the Liquor Lawyers at Stariha & Brower, PLC.  As always, we remind readers that the materials on this site are provided purely for informational purposes and are not legal advice. These materials are intended, but not promised or guaranteed, to be correct, complete, and current. This blog is not intended to be a source of legal advice. Therefore, the reader should not consider this information an invitation for an attorney-client relationship. Readers should always seek the advice of competent counsel.

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