Asheville Barhopper starts hopping

Steve Mauer was driving along Patton Avenue, headed back downtown when the rain started. “This is not good, this won’t help,” he said. His business partner in the Asheville Bar Hopper, Barry Bialik agreed, saying “What is it, 27 times you have to do something before it becomes a habit? Something like that.”

The second night of operation of the Asheville Bar Hopper was underway. And underwater, at least in the low areas near the river. “Our hours are under consideration,” said Mauer, “and our route is too. This is something no one has tried here before. Where do we go? When? We are putting lots of thought into it.” Bialik says the idea came to them when they were opening the South Asheville Thirsty Monk location, “We were ferrying people back and forth, and we thought…. hey, this is something that might work out.”

The bus itself has an interesting history. The most recent owner got it to haul his extended family around — he had lots of grandkids — out to dinner and such. Before that it was a prison ministry bus, taking people to visit relatives and such. Its longest, and first owner, was a Presbyterian Church in Fletcher. Now cruising the Patton Avenue to Haywood Road bar circuit just a few miles from its old home, the diesel purrs along with a steady hum. The bus has lots of headroom and foot room, with very comfortable seats. Bar Hopper plans to upgrade the interior lighting soon.

And, as a chauffeured vechicle, yes, you can bring beverages on the bus. They have to be unopened, and opened after the bus is moving, which means canned beer as they are trying to discourage bottles. Broken glass on the moving bus could harsh one’s mellow.

Amanda Patterson of Wilmington, NC was in town for the weekend. “I think it’s a great idea. I had no idea there were bars in West Asheville,” she said. “Where is West Asheville, anyway? Never heard of it.” “I wish I had known about this, we would have taken the ride, for sure.”

Donita Allen, a Thirsty Monk employee, went hopping from her home in West Asheville. “I took it from The Get Down. Spent an hour at the Bywater. Back over west to the Westville Pub, then to the Monk and back home. All without driving!”

The Bar Hopper runs Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights, check their website for schedules, contact information, and other services like parties and such.


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4 thoughts on “Asheville Barhopper starts hopping

  1. Doug Sahm

    I love the idea and I do think it will take a little time to really get the word out about the service. In the meantime though, I have a few suggestions to improve its appeal to potential riders:

    1. Scrap the “zones”, FOR NOW. They’re a little confusing. Charge $3 for every trip, regardless of destination, FOR NOW. Under the assumption that this wouldn’t bankrupt the operation, this will bring more people on board, which is the most important thing at this point. Right now, you can catch a cab from West Asheville to downtown for $15. So if you are in a group with at least three people (which a lot of people are when they go out), then the Bar Hopper doesn’t make economic sense. Which brings me to the next suggestion,

    2. The key is to give the riders a fun experience that they can not get in a cab. Some ideas for the ride:
    – Quiz Show
    – DJ sets
    – Acoustic set from someone who can take requests
    – Comedian?
    Make the shuttle its own bar, in a way. Make it as much of a destination as anywhere else during the night.

    3. Speaking of things that a cab can’t offer; how about putting a bike rack on the shuttle?

    Its a great idea that I think will be a huge asset to Asheville once it builds some momentum. Let’s also remember that Spring and Summer will bring a lot more people out to the bars. Good luck Steve and Barry!

  2. Megan

    Sure would be nice if someone would look into East Asheville too–Especially since most areas on the east side cannot access the downtown area as easily by foot, bike, or taxi as those on the west side.

    Also, may want to consider later hours–The people who need rides most are those who stay out imbibing later.

    Good idea and good luck!

  3. Dan

    I think it’s a great idea. However, I do think business would be a lot better if you moved the hours from 6-12 to 8-2. Most of the music that I want to see downtown, the first set is just getting over around 12.
    I wish you the best of luck, and I plan on using the service this weekend.

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