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Some Boise bike bars propose less stringent regulations amid complaints

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Boise City Council was prepared to put the hammer down on controversial bike bars, but business owners are hoping for a compromise. 

On Tuesday, Boise City Council heard a presentation from two owners of bike bar companies and their legal counsel to suggest alternative regulations than what the city was poised to vote into law in August. Instead of outright bans on alcohol on the bike bars and bans on amplified music, the companies suggested limiting their hours of operations, limiting the amounts of beverages allowed on board and capping sound volume. 

[Boise’s “Restaurant Row” to close to all traffic]

Michael Thomas, owner of Pedals & Pints, touted his company’s growth from its early beginnings in 2012 as the first bike bar company and its contributions to the downtown economy. He said the city pushing stringent regulations could put him and the other bike bars out of business, but he wants more moderate regulations to keep bad actors in line. 

“I’ve self regulated far more than I’ve been asked to because I love the faces of the people who get on my bikes and the joy that comes from it,” he said. “I’ll continue to self regulate, but I am all for further regulation of this business simply because I can see what happens when things go off the rails.”

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Bike bars hit Boise’s streets in 2012 and have since racked up a mounting stack of complaints. City staff reported in August issues with loud music disturbing diners, yelling, drunk and disorderly, and urination. There have been reports of people falling off of bikes due to high levels of intoxication, and Senior Administrative Services Manager Craig Croner showed council a video of a drunk bike bar customer leaving the bike to swim in a fountain on a hot day. 

A more moderate solution

Proposals from Pedals & Pints and Boise Buzz Bike, and their legal counsel Fisher Hudson Shallat, include preventing bike bars from operating between 4:30 p.m. and 6:30 p.m. in downtown Boise on weekdays and ending all tours by 10:30 p.m. seven days a week. They suggest banning the use of the bikes in heavily residential areas, like Hyde Park, and preventing customers from bringing more than three drinks of beer and wine onto the vehicles. 

Currently, riders may bring an unlimited amount of alcohol with them on the tour, in addition to the beverages they will drink in the bars where they stop. 

Other suggested rules include statutorily capping the sound levels allowed on the bike’s music systems and mandatory TIPS training for staff to recognize over intoxication, underage drinking and other issues. They also suggest portable bathrooms required at the beginning and end of each tour, as well as limiting the tours to an hour and a half. 

City Council President Pro Tem Holli Woodings is taking the lead on writing new regulations, and will be working with Croner and the companies to come up with a solution for council to vote on in the coming weeks. 

More rules?

Mayor Lauren McLean was critical of the companies’ request for more regulation, instead of solving these issues before it got to the point of city action. 

“Why is it taking us to get into your business of the size of cans and how many cans and all of that, when there have been impacts our city clerk’s office has come to you about before?” she said. “…I’m curious why bike bars haven’t instituted this stuff in their own operating plans prior to having us have to deal with the impacts that are really real to businesses downtown.”

City Council Member Patrick Bageant admonished the bike bars for similar actions, and expressed skepticism more regulations would solve the problem. He was one of two council members who supported banning the bike bars from operating altogether in August. 

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“What staff has told us is we need to revise this industry in significant ways because these ordinances aren’t working,” Bageant said. “The thematic issue is we haven’t had good success following the rules we had, so how is more rules the solution?”

Thomas, lawyer Anthony Shallat, and Boise Buzz Bike owner Brady Olson, argued the additional regulations will give them more power to stop bad behavior, instead of suggestions and company policies. 

“We want to work with the city to provide the best experience for everybody involved,” Olson said. 

Margaret Carmel
Margaret is a BoiseDev reporter focused on the City of Boise, housing, homelessness and growth. Contact her at margaret@boisedev.com or by phone at (757)705-8066.

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