BEND — Part bar, part bicycle, the Cycle Pub is all but unchallenged for the title of the most extraordinary vehicle on the streets of Bend.
Roughly 20 feet long and bearing a passing resemblance to a San Francisco cable car, the Cycle Pub features 12 barstools, six on either side of a bar running down the middle. A driver sits in front with a steering wheel, and passengers work the pedals under each barstool to propel the Cycle Pub, most often enjoying glasses of beer as they go. Most evenings this summer, owner James Watts’ two Cycle Pubs have been slowly making the circuit from their home base at GoodLife Brewing on Century Drive, past 10 Barrel Brewing on Galveston, and onward to the several brewpubs downtown.
Oregon Liquor Control Commission spokeswoman Joy Evensen said Bend’s two Cycle Pubs are thought to be the only ones of their kind in the state — and, as such, their status in the eyes of the law is slightly murky.
But because the Cycle Pub does not sell hard liquor — passengers supply their own food and drink — it requires no license from the OLCC, Evensen said. The agency has received a few inquiries from people looking to set up similar operations elsewhere in the state, she said, but the legal status of a Cycle Pub is a matter for local governments.
“There has been some interest in something similar in other cities like Portland, but I’m not sure, the city of Portland’s open container law might be different,” she said.
Hopworks Urban Brewing in Portland has a related vehicle, a cargo bicycle that carries two kegs of beer with two tap handles protruding from a wooden bar, but the “Beer Bike,” as it’s called, has only a single seat, for the driver.
Bend Police Community Liaison Steve Esselstyn said the first several months since the Cycle Pub’s debut at the Bend Winterfest have been largely trouble-free. Watts regularly checks in with police to stay abreast of any issues, Esselstyn said, adding that concerns and complaints from the public have been practically nonexistent.
“We’ve had zero problems with that thing,” Esselstyn said. “The guy is very responsible.”
Watts said while passengers on the Cycle Pub can drink beer and wine — hard liquor is not permitted — he’s made a point of discouraging excessive consumption. Oregon has no laws against public intoxication, but Watts is aiming to attract beer and bicycle enthusiasts rather than heavy drinkers.
“This isn’t Las Vegas — that’s not the point of the Cycle Pub,” Watts said. “I’m trying to keep an upscale, highbrow, classy image around town.”
Under state law, a Cycle Pub is regarded much like a limousine. As with a limo, the physical barrier separating the driver from the passengers distinguishes the Cycle Pub from other vehicles where consumption of alcohol would be prohibited.
Bend City Attorney Gary Firestone said the city had two primary legal concerns when Watts proposed starting up the Cycle Pub last winter. One, it wanted to be sure the Cycle Pub would not be selling hard liquor, and two, it wanted to find a way around the state law banning alcohol consumption outside of private residences or businesses licensed to serve alcohol.
For the Cycle Pub, Bend created an exemption permit, Firestone said, identical to the permits the city can issue for something like a wedding reception in a public park. The exemption is unique in that it’s not attached to a fixed physical location or good for a narrowly defined period of time, he said, but it is legally defensible.
The permit limits alcohol consumption to individuals sitting on the Cycle Pub, Firestone said — technically speaking, a passenger who hopped off his or her stool to the street with glass in hand would be in violation of the open container law.
Watts said because the Cycle Pubs are new and visible, he has to work to avoid conflicts with those living and traveling along the vehicles’ routes. Two noise complaints have been registered — they were both deserved, Watts said — and he’s since stopped running the Cycle Pub though residential neighborhoods at night. Because the Cycle Pub can obstruct traffic as it struggles to get up to speed on even the smallest hills, Watts said he’s tried to choose routes with room for vehicles to pass, though he’s yet to encounter a single driver outwardly upset by being delayed.