Fight brewing over proposed alcohol ban for Savannah bike tour companies

Local News

SAVANNAH, Ga. (WSAV) – Changes could be on the way for a popular tourist attraction in downtown Savannah as city leaders consider an alcohol ban and tour zone for quadricycle tours.

The multi-passenger bikes hold up to 15 riders who pedal, while a driver navigates and steers the vehicle, which normally provides the transportation for pub crawls.

There is a pair of companies offering quadricycle tours downtown. Savannah Slow Ride introduced the tours to Savannah in 2011. A few years ago, a company now called Peddle Pub followed.

Now, noise complaints from residential neighborhoods are prompting Savannah’s mayor and aldermen to change the city codes governing the specialized bikes.

The President of the Savannah Downtown Neighborhood Association, David McDonald, shared some of the feedback he says he’s receiving from members.

“The issue that the community has and what our members complain about is the loud noise. The drinking, the partying, the singing, the yelling…all hours,” McDonald said. He added that the tour zone change would make streets east of Abercorn Street off-limits, but it would open up part of the area north of Bay Street for the first time.

“The other part of it is just taking the alcohol off of the vehicle as they’re being operated on the streets. That’s just common sense,” McDonald said.

But the owner of Savannah’s first quadricycle tour company feels singled out among the wide variety of tours available through downtown. Samantha Meir, Savannah Slow Ride’s Owner said:

Amid an election cycle, they have proposed a change to the alcohol ordinance, not the noise ordinance, with my business as the sole target. The proposed change singles out quadricycles from hearses, horse-drawn carriages and trollies. Unfortunately, this is not surprising but should raise concern. This is an attempt by City Council to target a specific business, in this case, mine.” She adds, “It’s a slippery slope when we allow ordinances to be crafted targeting a business not based on facts or a history of violations but on the sole basis that members of City Council do not like it. The proposed change to the alcohol ordinance is not only unconstitutional, it will do nothing to address any real issues which are all related to noise.

Peddle Pub’s operating owner and general manager, Mat Schulz, says his company has retained legal counsel.

“We do have a lawyer on it….are unfortunately gonna have to go the litigation route,” he said. “We are planning to fight this, tooth and nail to the end because we don’t feel it’s fair to us to be singled out from the other companies.”

Savannah’s District 2 Alderman Bill Durrence says he did not introduce the changes, but he supports them after several years of negative feedback about quadricycle tours.

“It’s not just noise. There are numerous reports of obnoxious and disruptive behaviors, including yelling at people on the streets, interfering with other peoples’ good time in Savannah,” Durrence said.

The changes are set for a first reading before the city council on Thursday, Oct. 10.

Schulz and Meir say they welcome the zone change, but making Slow Ride a dry ride in downtown Savannah goes too far if it’s not applied to every tour company.

“They have proposed a change to the alcohol ordinance, not the noise ordinance. The proposed change singles out quadricycles from hearses, horse-drawn carriages, and trollies,” Meir said.

Schultz agrees: “The hearse tours, I mean those are cars and you can drink in the back of those, um so I don’t see the issue with drinking on our bicycles that have no motor that has a maximum speed of 5 miles per hour. Banning alcohol on our bike does not affect the noise. There’s no correlation between alcohol and noise.”

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