City approves bicycle bar 'The Bar Hopper'

DETROIT LAKES, Minn. -- A new vehicle -- non-motorized that is -- for drinking and sightseeing in Detroit Lakes may be coming to fruition this summer.

DETROIT LAKES, Minn. -- A new vehicle -- non-motorized that is -- for drinking and sightseeing in Detroit Lakes may be coming to fruition this summer.

The Detroit Lakes City Council approved John Vannette and his Bar Hopper LLC business.

"It's a sightseeing, touristy, something different kind of thing," Police Chief Kel Keena described.

The Bar Hopper is a bicycle built for 15. There is the driver -- or the person steering in this case -- and then seven passengers on each side of the bicycle. They pedal to power the non-motorized vehicle and are allowed to drink their own alcohol in the process.

A similar business exists in Minneapolis, and examples can be seen at .


During several exchanges with both Keena and City Administrator Bob Louiseau, the city council brought up areas of concern,

Keena said one of the city ordinances says that no passenger must be in front of the driver of a bicycle. He said that was basically made for children giving others "bucks" on their handlebars. The Bar Hopper has the driver in the back also, but that likely isn't a big deal in this instance.

Other conflicts with city ordinances include not being allowed to operate in a business district, the need for a transient license, and the big one -- no alcohol is allowed on public streets, "and we enforce that pretty heavily," Keena said.

So basically, "they pedal and drink, he's sober and steers," he added.

The city's ordinance on alcohol possession on public streets may need to be amended to include the exemption of a bike for commercial purposes, similar to a party bus or limousine.

Which is exactly what the Detroit Lakes City Council did Tuesday night.

After talking over the ordinance with City Attorney Bill Briggs, Louiseau said, "as long as he's not selling anything, he's not a transient (merchant)," so he may not need that license.

The business will be required to get a taxi license through the city, which "gives us a little more control," Louiseau said. With that license, the city can impose extra regulations, such as $1 million in liability insurance.


Bar Hopper is proposed to operate during daylight hours, would not provide the alcohol, will card those drinking to make sure they are of age, will be rented by the hour and will kick anyone off exercising inappropriate behavior like extreme intoxication, excessive noise, littering or public urination.

That should ensure a nice, mellow tour of the city and lake. Vannette said they are planning to pedal the bike along West Lake Drive.

"I have to say, it looks like a fun thing," Alderman Madalyn Sukke said.

"It's a new venture," Keena agreed.

Bar Hopper owner Vannette said he and his partner built the bicycle, and they plan to run the operation in Moorhead and Fargo as well.

"I don't see a big objection," Louiseau said. "The biggest concern I had was noise."

Alderman Leonard Heltemes said his concern is public safety.

"As long as it's properly regulated, I don't have a problem with the concept," Keena said.


Vannette said he is willing to work with the city to comply because they want to keep the business in town. And he will regulate those on the bike because he said he'd rather lose one customer than the business as a whole.

"It's not going to be crazy drunkenness running wild in your streets," he assured.

"It's a great idea, but there's such a tough (stance) on liquor on the beach," Alderman Ron Zeman said. "I think this will open a can of worms."

Alderman Bruce Imholte suggested that the city take a look at the ordinance that bans alcohol on the beach, in the parks, and other public areas.

Mayor Matt Brenk said the council could look at that at a later time.

"We're just asking you guys to give us a chance," Vannette said. "If not, I'll be doing parades the rest of my life."

The council will hold a second reading of the ordinance change at a special June 22 council meeting, which will allow for the Bar Hopper to be up and running by the Fourth of July in Detroit Lakes as long as the business gets its taxi license in time.

Pippi Mayfield is a reporter at the Detroit Lakes (Minn.) Tribune, which is owned by Forum Communications Co.

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