TN merchants get free cab rides for dipsy holiday drivers

Those who drink a little too much this holiday season may be able to catch a small break courtesy of local businesses.

Starting Saturday, December 25, and ending on Saturday, January 8, five businesses will be handing out vouchers for free cab rides to people who have drank more than the legal limit to drive. Vouchers will be for rides that are between $8 and $10, which means they take people as far as north as Middletown Road and south to Schurz Avenue.

“This is not an endorsement for people to go out and have too much to drink. The vouchers will be available at the bar, but you can’t just go up and say I want a free ride. The bartender has to decide whether the person has had too much,” said John Cerini, president of the Throggs Neck Merchants Association, which helped organize the program.

“It’s a way to let the community know that when you go to the bars and restaurants, it’s not just about making money. They care about the community and want everyone to be safe,” he said.

The participating establishments are the Pompeii Lounge, Paddy Doherty’s Alehouse, Spoto’s Restaurant, the Throggs Neck Clipper and Wicked Wolf. Each establishment will have about 20 vouchers. The cost of the vouchers is being split between the bars and restaurants, and Zero’s Cab Service.

Many establishments already have a policy of calling cabs for patrons that clearly should not be driving themselves home. But the new program will make things easier for the local bars and restaurants.

According to Fabricio Alonzo, manger at the Pompeii Lounge, sometimes it is difficult for people to find cabs when they are needed- especially during the holiday season.

“We have patrons, sometimes they come, they can’t drive, or they came in a cab,” Alonso said. “We close at 3 a.m. and sometimes it’s hard to find a cab ride. This way we’ll have some cabs lined up out front.”

Making sure that their patrons get home safe is always an issue for bars and restaurants around the city, at all times of the year. But with the continuous celebration, special eventsand often unsafe driving conditions, the holidays can be one of the most dangerous times of the year for drivers.

Cerini said the idea for the holiday safe ride came up after discussing the issue of drinking and driving with local establishments and concerned community groups.

“We thought it was a good opportunity for the community,” Cerini said. “It’s a big thing. A lot of people are concerned with drinking and driving, so we figured this was the best time to do something like this.”

Although the program is scheduled to end on January 8, participating establishments will keep a close eye on the success of the program. If things go well, they may bring it back year round.

“We’re trying this out as a pilot program first, to see if it’s something that the community responds to,” Cerini said. “We want to see if it’s something they like and appreciate.”

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