OTTAWA – In the not-too distant future, residents of Ottawa and Glandorf who peer out their living room windows may get a glimpse of a strange-looking, human-powered vehicle gliding down the street.
Predictably the dozen or so passengers aboard that vehicle all will seemingly be having a great deal of fun. They will be riding on, and providing the power for, the Titan Trolley — all while enjoying their favorite adult beverage.
The Titan Trolley, the brainchild of Ottawa resident Andrew Beaston and his wife, Katie, will make its debut in Putnam County once winter relinquishes its icy grip. The trolley is what’s commonly known as a pedal bar. In Beaston’s version, up to 14 patrons can travel around the communities of Ottawa and Gladorf — with a few route limitations — while sipping their favorite beer or wine.
“They have one of these in Tiffin, and I saw it during the pandemic,” Beaston said earlier this week. “I started exploring the legalities, and 11 months later here we are. We will be taking possession of our custom-built trolley in about three weeks. We’ll start training drivers sometime in mid-March, so people will begin to see (the trolley) around town.”
Beaston’s enterprise is the just latest in a series of endeavors in Northwest Ohio to capitalize on the economic benefits of liquid-fueled outdoor entertainment options.
Alcohol for economic development
Many of those efforts center around the creation of DORAs, or designated outdoor recreation areas. The DORA concept, created in 2015 by Ohio House Bill 47, permits communities to allow open containers of alcohol within a designated area as an economic tool to support local business. More than 50 Ohio communities currently have DORA districts.
The city of Wapakoneta launched its downtown district on Nov. 6 of last year. The eight-block DORA allows those visiting the district to buy specially designated drinks from bars or restaurants downtown and drink them in public seven days a week from 11 a.m. to 11 p.m.
There are currently five qualified permit holders in the DORA: La Grande Pizza, J. Marie’s Wood Fired Kitchen & Drinks, The Alpha Café, The Side Rail and The Wapakoneta Eagles.
Patrons may carry their drinks along city streets and into Herigate and Belcher Parks. Signs along the route indicate the DORA boundaries. Any alcoholic beverage outside the district constitutes a violation of open container laws.
Wapakoneta Police Chief Calvin Schneider said the enactment of the DORA so late in the year has left him with a small sample size to judge potential pitfalls.
“Me, the individual, is in favor of the DORA. Me, the police chief, is a little concerned,” Schneider said. “Like with everything, there is the potential for problems to arise. I’m curious to see how it goes this summer. We can always make changes later if we need to.”
Lima seeks similar zone
Talks of a similar designated outdoor drinking zone in Lima have been rekindled of late, picking up on a proposal that dates back to September 2018 when a group of community leaders first discussed the pros and cons of a DORA.
In January 2021, councilor Jon Neeper asked that councilors begin to re-engage in the topic of an “entertainment district” to be located downtown.
“I think it’s something that is going to be absolutely imperative with what’s happening downtown,” Neeper said. “I think it’s something that we need to do, that needs to be worked on.”
Downtown Lima, Inc. is spearheading the move for a DORA and has identified a 113-acre tract of properties downtown that would be included.
At a meeting earlier this week of Lima’s Economic and Community Development Committee, members discussed possible unintended consequences associated with the district.
Councilor Peggy Ehora raised concerns that people who have a DORA cup could refill their cup with alcohol from their vehicle and then walk the streets, attending events like Rally in the Square.
Sharetta Smith, Chief of Staff to Mayor David Berger and a 2021 mayoral candidate said, “I can’t sit here and tell you that there’ll be a foolproof way to stop people from going to their car and filling their cup.”
Lima Police Chief Kevin Martin said he had reached out to law enforcement officials in communities with DORAs “and every one of them saw decreases in calls for service.”
Added Councilman Todd Gordon, “Where you have alcohol, you have problems, sometimes. I would feel more comfortable with more police presence, especially on the weekends. I am not against this. I really want to see downtown thrive and businesses grow.”
Pedal bar legalities
Beaston said the Ohio Revised Code allows for the consumption of alcoholic beverages while aboard the mobile bar, with some restrictions.
“We can only serve beer and wine, and there can be no glass containers. There will be a limit of three beers — 36 ounces — or 18 ounces of wine per outing,” Beaston said. “As long as people stay on the bike (trolley), there will be no problem. But the minute they step off with a beverage in their hand, they risk an open container violation.”
While pedal bars are covered by Ohio law, Beaston nonetheless approached the governing bodies in Ottawa and Glandorf in an attempt to discuss with the powers that be any potential legal snags and to “protect all the entities involved.” Ottawa’s council adopted legislation authorizing the pedal bar, with the streets upon which it may legally travel closely mirroring those included in the village’s golf cart ordinance.
Talks have been initiated with the Glandorf for similar government approval, Beaston said.
While early models of pedal bars required a good bit of “umph” from passengers, the Titan Trolley is much more user-friendly.
“Riders on pedal bars used to be met with a degree of resistance and had to work kind of hard to keep the vehicle in motion, but mine is unique,” Beaston said. “Our riders will meet virtually no resistance as they pedal because they are actually powering batteries of a generator, which in turn powers the bike.”
A company employee will serve as the designated driver at all times.
In larger, urban settings, pedal bars are often used to shuttle patrons from bar to bar. That’s not Beaston’s goal.
“People don’t want to spend a lot of time going from site to site. They just want to be outside and have some fun,” he said.
At a peak speed of 15 mph with no passengers – down to about 6 mph will a full load of 14 guests – it’s the journey, not the destination, that matters most.
That doesn’t mean that stops for food — and perhaps the occasional restroom break — along the way are out of the question. Beaston said the Car-E-It bar in Ottawa will serve as “home base” for the Titan Trolley, with similar agreements currently in place with the Red Pig Inn and the Bombshelter near Glandorf. Groups can also be picked up at private residences.
Package deals for the Titan Trolley run the gamut in length and price and can be customized to meet patrons’ specific needs. The restaurant partners and most other establishments in the two communities have also agreed to offer food specials that are included on the trolley’s extensive menu of options.
Reservations are currently being accepted on the Titan Trolley LLC Facebook page or the company’s website at Titantrolley.org.