Pedal-powered pub tour comes to downtown Wilmington

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Trolley Pub, which will offer tours of downtown bars and eateries, hopes to get city approval to allow passengers to drink while pedaling. Photo by Hilary Snow
Trolley Pub, which will offer tours of downtown bars and eateries, hopes to get city approval to allow passengers to drink while pedaling. Photo by Hilary Snow

A pedal-powered limousine, of sorts, has hit the streets of downtown Wilmington.

Nearly two years after it first made an appearance along Front Street, Trolley Pub is now open for book-ahead tours to a handful of ale houses and watering holes of one’s choice.

Owner Kai Kaapro brought the stretch pedi-cab down to the Port City in March 2014, in an effort to get the process of approval rolling for his unique bar-on-wheels concept. At that point, Kaapro had already been talking with city officials for a year but said there was some question over whether Trolley Pub violated the local public consumption ordinance.

Trolley Pub passengers hop on for a two-hour tour–for a fee of $30–stopping at area bars and eateries along the way. The hope is that riders, who keep the trolley in motion by pedaling, can bring their own beer and wine along for the trip.

The concept came out of Amsterdam in the late 1990s; the first to come to the U.S. was in Minneapolis, Minnesota.

Evan Wood, general manager of the Trolley Pub’s Raleigh location, said the Wilmington Trolley Pub has a limousine permit.

“On a state level that means you are for hire and it also means you are able to consume alcohol on board but the City of Wilmington has its own regulations that say otherwise,” he said.

A “BYOB” resolution will be up for approval by city council in January, he added, noting that Trolley Pub feels fairly confident it will pass. It’s a hurdle Kaapro is used to jumping, with Trolley Pub sites now operating in five other cities in addition to Raleigh and Wilmington: Arlington, Virginia; Charlotte; Ann Arbor, Michigan; Madison, Wisconsin; and Houston, Texas.

“It took us six months to get approved in Arlington…I understand it takes some time,” Kaapro said in an earlier interview. “People think it is scarier than it really is until they see it in action.”

In the meantime, the business will operate on a pub crawl concept. In fact, even if the city doesn’t approve the on-board drinking, Trolley Pub will stick around Wilmington as a “dry” vehicle, Wood said.

Of the seven total sites, two–Charlotte and Arlington–were never approved to allow passengers to drink while pedaling.

The company will start out in Wilmington with one trolley, running five tours a day starting at noon and ending by midnight. The trolley holds up to 14 passengers.

Reservations for tours must be made in advance on Trolley Pub’s website.

Hilary Snow is a reporter at Port City Daily. Reach her at hilary.s@portcitydaily.com.