For now, Arlington Trolley Pub pedals dry to local businesses

The Arlington Pub Trolley takes riders on pub and dining crawls in the neighborhood. (WTOP/Rachel Nania)

Rachel Nania,

WASHINGTON – Sitting in Northern Virginia’s traffic is much more enjoyable when you’re on a moving pub. At least, that’s what Arlington Trolley Pub managing partner Kai Kaapro thinks.

Kaapro and local business partner Tom Lapham launched the pedal-powered vehicle last Friday. Up to 14 people can rent the trolley for $420 and pedal up and down the streets of Arlington for two hours.

“It’s like a pub crawl sort of thing. You can do a restaurant crawl where you get some food. Most people want to go in and just get a couple of drinks at different places,” says Kaapro, who also has trolley pubs in Tucson, Ariz. and Raleigh, N.C.

Kaapro’s original plans for the trolley included a BYOB model for participants. One day prior to launching, however, the state department of Alcoholic Beverage Control disallowed the option. For now, it’s running dry while Kaapro works out the details.

“Basically, we’re having a discussion over the interpretation of the law,” Kaapro says. “It’s the same law we have in North Carolina and we’ve been operating legally there for a year. The county officials and local police here all said it was legal and they were fine with it because there is an exemption to the local container law for vehicles that [offer] transportation for compensation.”

Kaapro says the board is concerned about public consumption, but claims that their logic would also lead to a ban on limousines and party buses with alcohol on board.

“We think that’s an over-broad interpretation,” says Kaapro, who adds that if he and the ABC do not come to an agreement, he will reach out to local representatives and try to get a state exemption for chartered vehicles.

Despite the current dry policy, Kaapro is still busy with bookings and trolley pub crawls.

“In Tucson we never had alcohol on board, and we’ve operated there for a long time. It’s still a lot of fun without it. It’s obviously not the same experience. But if we do it without alcohol, we make it more destination-driven,” says Kaapro, who explains that riders can decorate the trolley and play their own music.

The current route takes the trolley’s passengers through Clarendon, down towards Court House and up Wilson Boulevard. Kaapro says some of the most popular places to stop include Whitlow’s and Arlington Rooftop Bar and Grill.

Trolley riders shouldn’t fill up too much on beer and food, though: Everyone is expected to pedal. However, there is an automatic mode and an electric assist to help out with the hills.

As far as driving a trolley in Northern Virginia traffic, Kaapro says it hasn’t been an issue.

“The nice thing is, when it’s rush hour, it is stop-and-go traffic so we actually fit in really smoothly.”

In addition to providing another way for locals to frequent Arlington’s food and drink establishments, Kaapro is confident the trolley will bring business to Arlington. So far, the trolley has booked private parties from Maryland, D.C. and all different parts of Virginia.

“We’ve been looking in the D.C. area for over a year. Our main demographic is young professionals and middle-aged folks and it seems like there are a lot of people around here like that. There are a lot of cool restaurants and there’s a good vibe in Clarendon.”

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