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Clearwater saying yes to ‘beer bikes,’ but without the beer part

One operator calls the proposed ordinance a deal killer without beer and wine. The city council on Thursday will discuss a six-month pilot program.
Clearwater may soon vote to allow commercial megacycles to ply the streets downtown and on Clearwater Beach. They'll be missing a key ingrediant, though: Beer and wine. [Pedal Pub]
Clearwater may soon vote to allow commercial megacycles to ply the streets downtown and on Clearwater Beach. They'll be missing a key ingrediant, though: Beer and wine. [Pedal Pub]
Published Dec. 18, 2019
Updated Dec. 18, 2019

CLEARWATER — The city may soon allow Pedal Pubs downtown and on the beach.

Well, pedal somethings, anyway.

The name Pedal Pub, a trademarked subset of a vehicle class known as commercial megacycles, would be only be half right if the Clearwater City Council approves a proposed ordinance Thursday.

Patrons would still power the beer bikes, but they wouldn’t be fueled by alcohol. Pedal, but no pub.

That’s a major problem for Clay Irwin, a business owner who’s been trying for months to bring megacycles to Clearwater.

“It won’t work without beer and wine,” Irwin said. Hard liquor was never an option for his vehicles. “If they’re not going to allow it, I’m not going to bring it to this market.”

Over the summer, City Manager Bill Horne directed his staff to research the vehicles then bring recommendations to the council. Banning alcohol was part of the original staff recommendations.

Through fall and early winter, the City Council provided feedback to the staff, shaping the ordinance to its liking. The staff originally recommended a six-month pilot program downtown only. That seemed fine with the council at first.

Here's an aerial view of the area where commercial megacycles would be allowed in downtown Clearwater. [City of Clearwater]

Then a majority of the council said at a Dec. 5 meeting that they want the vehicles at the beach as well ― just not in the main roundabout. So the ordinance coming up Thursday allows the megacycles at the beach north and south of the roundabout.

Here's a map of the area where commercial megacycles would be allowed in downtown Clearwater. [City of Clearwater]

Still, no alcohol.

Mayor George Cretekos said he isn’t worried about the alcohol ban. But Cretekos, one of five votes on the council, opposes megacycles at the beach.

“I would be worried if I wanted pedal pubs to be on Clearwater Beach,” Cretekos said. “But I don’t want pedal pubs to be on Clearwater Beach.”

Clogged streets already are an issue on Clearwater Beach, Cretekos said, so he couldn’t support adding slow-moving megacycles.

Irwin, the business owner, said each pedal pub is staffed with a “pilot” who could keep up with traffic. A full pub can travel the 15 mph speed limit established by the ordinance ― depending on how hard people pedal, he said. His company has worked out designated pub parking spots at potential stops.

Cretekos argued that shiny megacycles rolling from bar to bar could harm the image of Clearwater Beach as a family-friendly vacation destination.

Irwin disagreed. Nobody’s getting wasted on an hourlong megacycle ride, he said.

“The average rider has about a beer, maybe two. It’s not that easy to pedal and drink beer.”

Clearwater hasn’t heard from any operators interested in running alcohol-free pedal pubs, said Jim Halios, assistant to the city manager, who helped write the original recommendations.

Council member Bob Cundiff acknowledged that the ban could discourage bidders. Still, Cundiff said, he likes the ordinance and the idea of a six-month trial period.

“If it works, fine,” he said. “And if they don’t bid, we might have to change our minds.”

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