What the Ale? “Pedal Pub Pilot” Is a Real Job, So We Talked to One
On a breezy Friday afternoon, two groups of women gather in a parking lot outside an inconspicuous warehouse in downtown St. Petersburg, Florida.
The first group to arrive includes three moms, who say it’s their afternoon off. The dads are playing golf, so they hired a sitter to wrangle the kids. Now, it’s time to let loose.
The second group is a bachelorette party of eight. They embrace the BYOB concept and come prepared with bag wine and tumblers complete with straws.
They’re all about portability, which is ideal for their much-anticipated, three-hour tour with PedalPub St. Petersburg. It’s a pub crawl, but rather than crawling, they’re pedaling. Together. On a giant bike. And they’re armed with alcohol.
Carrie Davis, 32, perches on the back of the mobile pub as the guests arrive. She’s been a full-time pedal pub pilot for more than a year. It’s her job to bartend and steer the cart. She doesn’t have to pedal, though. She just has to make sure everyone is having a good time — and that they don’t crash the double-wide bike.
Davis has tended bar around the world — from New Zealand to Ireland — but she landed back in her native state of Florida last year.
About two weeks after moving to town, her roommate mentioned a gig that had opened with PedalPub St. Petersburg. “You’d be perfect,” Davis remembers her roommate saying.
A Boozy Day in The Life of a Pedal Pub Pilot
Before taking off, Davis has the two groups of women sign waivers, which say something like “I’ll take the risk of not wearing a helmet” — unless they want to, of course.
She then loads the guests’ coolers onto the bike before assuming her position at the steering wheel up front, like the captain of a ship.
The 11 women hoist themselves on board.
Davis reviews the safety measures, which include rules like “don’t get off the bike with a drink in your hand” (because of open container laws), “don’t hand a drink off to a stranger on the street,” “don’t throw any obscene hand gestures”…
Also, try not to fall off the seat.
The ladies laugh, but Davis assures them she’s seen it all.
She starts the music before assuming her pilot position and ringing the bell.
That means pedal, Davis informs the group.
The cart creeps out of the warehouse’s parking lot and down the street towards Central Avenue. The ladies comment on that pedaling is much harder than they’d expected.
“Good thing I didn’t work out today,” someone says.
People on the sidewalk wave, and commuters honk. The ladies quickly concoct a drinking rule: Each time you hear a honk, drink.
Davis likes to mess with the guests. Sometimes she pretends she’s not paying attention or tells them the cart doesn’t have brakes — which she does today, as the cart pulls up to the first red light. “I like playing with their sense of humor,” she says.
The light turns green, and she turns the wheel left as the cart gradually picks up the pace again.
At the first stop, 3 Daughters Brewing, the ladies dismount. “20 minutes!” Davis reminds them as they head off towards the brewery.
She uses the welcomed downtime to wipe the bartop, refill the cooler and hang out. Sometimes she plays games on her phone. Other times she throws what she calls a parking lot party, which happens when the guests don’t venture into the bar and opt to stay on the bike and drink in the parking lot.
Twenty minutes later, the women reappear, ready to hit the next two bars on their route.
The second stop is Urban Comfort Restaurant and Brewery, and it’s full of yard games. After the group ventures to the bar, Davis again wipes the bike’s bar top after some messy spills (potholes in a pedal pub are serious problems) and grabs a cup of coffee from a nearby shop. She joins the group of bachelorettes, who are playing cornhole with beers in hand.
It seems as though Davis’s reminders to pedal become more frequent as the afternoon wears on.
The final stop is The Dog Bar, another local favorite that offers brews, games and dogs. Davis maneuvers the cart, parking it against the curb, and saddles up to the bar where she chats with the bartender, whom she knows.
The group becomes more and more lively, and a short 20 minutes later, Davis finds herself coaxing one of the bachelorettes, who apparently didn’t want to leave the dogs, to get back to the pedal pub.
Which raises the question — what happens when a pedal-pubber gets too drunk?
Davis has a simple solution: Put them in the middle of the cart and have them act as bartender. They’re protected by the bar, and they feel special.
It’s Friday, so Davis has another tour lined up before her shift ends around 11:30 p.m. Then, she’ll do it all again tomorrow, a Saturday, which is typically her longest day, running 1:30 p.m. to 11:30 p.m.
Working full time, she makes enough money to live off of — base pay plus tips.
Plus she loves her job because each day proves different.
“I like making people laugh,” she says. “I like being outside. I like that I’m not in a cubicle somewhere. I’m surrounded by people who just want to have a good time.”
Your Turn: Would you make a good pedal pub pilot?
Carson Kohler (@CarsonKohler) is a junior writer at The Penny Hoarder. She once embarked on a ride with PedalPub St. Pete. At the end of the night, she stumbled off the bike with a big grin on her face — and had a nasty hangover the next morning.