The city will consider an ordinance permitting pedal tours to operate downtown, though some officials have questions.
Alcohol-centric pedal tours, a staple of bigger cities, including St. Petersburg and Nashville, Tenn., could soon make their way to downtown Sarasota.
Brittany Orlando, the owner of Sip-N-Cycle Cruises, already operates a “party bike” route on Siesta Key. She appeared before the City Commission on Monday hoping to get the board’s blessing to expand her business to a route including downtown, Rosemary District and Burns Court.
The commission voted 3-2 to schedule a future public hearing to discuss an ordinance permitting the vehicles on designated streets. Officials had questions about noise, traffic and hours of operation they hoped to address before deciding whether the pedal tours were a good fit for the city.
The board also had questions about safety. Riders pedal to help power the 15-seat vehicle Orlando’s company uses, which a professional driver steers and oversees. Riders are allowed to bring their own alcoholic beverages and consume them on the vehicle. Orlando a safety professional rides along for each tour, and employees have the right to end the tour if any rules are violated.
Orlando said the company has already secured agreements with local bars and restaurants to act as stops during the tour. Mandeville Beer Garden, located on Lemon Avenue in the Rosemary District, would be the pick-up and drop-off site for the tours. Other listed partners include Marina Jack, Smokin’ Joes and Office Bar SRQ.
Orlando touted endorsements from the Siesta Key Chamber of Commerce and Visit Sarasota County as evidence the business is credible, stating she has received no complaints while operating on Siesta. Although the pedal tours are advertised as a party experience on the Sip-N-Cycle website, Orlando said she wanted the downtown tour to also highlight things like art and theater.
“I want it to be a cultural experience” Orlando said. “I’m not focusing on alcohol.”
One speaker Monday asked the city not to permit the tours — or to at least ensure the businesses were thoroughly regulated.
“How would allowing pedal pubs — with no attached ability to protect the public safety health and welfare — be responsible stewardship of our city?” resident Linda Haller Sloan said.
City Manager Tom Barwin said the Sarasota Police Department had expressed some preliminary concerns about the proposal. The board directed staff to contact the department before drafting a potential ordinance for a public hearing. Commissioners also encouraged the city attorney to look at other Florida cities that permitted the vehicles as a point of reference.
If the city authorizes the business, Orlando said she hoped to begin operating downtown later this year.