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Council toasts drinking in public

In time for St. Patrick's Day, customers riding around downtown Medford in a pedal-powered trolley can now drink in public, following a unanimous decision by the Medford City Council Thursday.

Nate Olson, owner of Pint Rider, said he will take his first drinking tour at 6 p.m. Friday. The 15-seat trolley is fully booked.

"The riders will be surprised," he said.

He'll have another tour Saturday that will also allow drinking, because the ordinance takes effect immediately.

Olson said he hopes to double or quadruple the number of tours he books every year through pintrider.com. The trolley will be cruising around the Pear Blossom Parade this year, he said.

Last year, which was his first year in operation, he had about 40 tours. Bend, which has a similar trolley operation, has more than 1,000 tours a year, he said.

"I'd like to be in the 400 range," he said.

He's gotten feedback from potential customers who have told him, "When you get beer, I'll do it."

Councilor Kevin Stine said he wondered who would keep track of the trolley operators to make sure customers were drinking only while riding.

Riders have to stow growlers and other bottled drinks away, but can pour beer or wine into an unbreakable cup with a cover while they wheel around the city.

Lori Cooper, city attorney, said the burden of responsibility will be on the trolley operator to make sure patrons follow the rules. She said any complaints about customers could be dealt with by police.

Councilor Dick Gordon said he wanted to know whether the trolley operator is required to have a taxi license from the city, also known as a "T" card.

Eric Mitton, senior deputy counsel for the city, said, "I do not anticipate a 'T' card is required."

The trolley operator would need to have a business license and commercial driver's license, he said.

Olson had previously asked the City Council to amend Medford's open-container law so riders could consume beer, wine and cider. Riders went into pubs to buy a brew, but they couldn't open growlers on the trolley and consume the contents. 

Drinking containers would have to be made of plastic, metal or silicone. Passengers can fill their cups from glass containers only when the pedicab is stationary. 

Olsen said his trolley, built in Bend, has been popular, particularly with women. 

Portland, Bend and some cities in California also allow the consumption of alcohol on the party bikes — or pedicabs, as they are called — while they journey from pub to pub, buying beer or wine on the way. 

Unlike a car or bicycle, the riders can't steer or brake the trolley. All they do is party and pedal to help power a vehicle that has an electric assist to keep the vehicle going about 5 mph under a full load. A company driver controls the trolley at all times. 

— Reach reporter Damian Mann at 541-776-4476 or dmann@mailtribune.com. Follow him on www.twitter.com/reporterdm.