55°F & Clear 7 day forecast Friday, July 25, 2014

Grand Valley State University's Beacon Since 1963, Allendale, MI
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DD service is 'just responsible enough'

Bar goers offered safe ride


Planning a night out in Beer City, USA, almost always leads to the inevitable question: who is going to drive home? Your Chauffeur, an on-call designated driving service, proposes a possible answer.

“These kinds of businesses have been around for a while in places like Europe and Korea,” said Chad Becker, the owner and founder of Your Chauffeur. “I got the idea while visiting a friend in the Carolinas. It was floating around in my head for awhile, [until] finally I started up [Your Chauffeur] in Grand Rapids.”

Operating out of downtown Grand Rapids alongside HopCat on Ionia Street, Your Chauffeur’s licensed drivers are on-call Thursday through Saturday from 9 p.m. to 3 a.m. By using mopeds designed to fold up and fit into a car’s backseat, drivers are able to drive the patron home in his or her own car, then jet back to Grand Rapids.

Patrons can make a reservation by calling or texting 616-803-9247, or make reservations online at the business’ website. When a driver has been reached, the driver hops on a moped and meets the patron at this or her location. The first five miles are charged a flat rate of $20, and any mile beyond that is an extra $3. On weekend nights, the business chauffeurs within a 12 mile radius from downtown Grand Rapids, which includes Allendale.

“With the hours that we operate, we’ve garnered some messed up responses,” Becker said. “People say, ‘I can’t fit on that moped!’ But once they understand what we’re doing, their responses have been good.”

The business got its start this summer after winning the “Public Selection” from local investment fund Start Garden in June.

“Once we got off the ground, we went to an arena district meeting,” Becker said. “I gave a presentation, told the businesses ‘if you have any interest in working with us, please let us know.’ Bars like HopCat were definitely the people we wanted to work with and they were interested in the idea.”

Your Chauffeur is sponsored by HopCat, Stella’s Lounge, McFadden’s and the Grand Rapids Brewing Company. All four bars are owned by local company Barfly Ventures, LLC.

“It’s [an idea] we were definitely geeked about,” Shawn Blonk, the general manager of Grand Rapids Brewing Company said.

The Grand Rapids Brewing Company helps out with Your Chauffeur’s business, often directing patrons toward its services.

“At the end of the night, we’ll try to call cabs for our guests and make sure they get home safely,” Blonk said. “We hand out [Your Chauffeur’s] business cards and will sometimes make the reservations for [guests].”

The brewery aids in getting the business’ name out there.

“We let guests know that this service is available to them,” Blonk said. “We became a sponsor because we’re a big fan of not over serving. We care about our guests’ wellbeing.”

Since its inception, the business has taken off.

“We’ve been getting repeat customers, which is nice,” Becker said.

Because Your Chauffeur operates via moped, the business is seasonal and will be shutting down as the weather gets colder. The business is looking to the future and possibly expanding to other cities like Lansing, where there have been requests for similar services.

“We will finish up for the summer and see the progress we have made over the last season,” Becker said. “We will see where we will go next summer. The Lansing branch is years away.”

For now, Your Chauffeur strives to provide its clientele with a safe alternative to a cab or other transit services.

“Everyone we’ve given rides to have been awesome,” Becker said. “They’re fun, reasonable people we want to work with. We’re attracting the best kind of customer—those who are just drinking responsibly.”

For more information, visit http://www.yourchauffeurgr.com/.



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