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Thread: Starting Bar Hopping Shuttle - Need Advice

  1. #1

    Default Starting Bar Hopping Shuttle - Need Advice

    First off I am coming to this forum reasonably prepared with a few wrinkles to work out of my "plan"

    I have my corporation set up and am getting my stat tax I.D. After that I will be applying for my business license for in the city I am looking to run this bar hopping shuttle in. So far the process is fairly simple but my brain has been going crazy with how to go about implementing my start up and how to price it.

    Start up Costs:
    Insurance ($200 per month) - Gas ($200 per month) - Driver (me) - Vehicle ($0-$5000) - application/licenses ($300).

    Background: the city (Sioux Falls SD) has like 25-35 bars and also has 2 Division 2 colleges (population of about 8,000 kids total)
    -Downtown has about 10 bars and my route will cover another 4
    -9 of the bars in town are owned by the same owner and they offer a "free" shuttle to their bars. (out of those 9, only 1 is downtown, and 1 more will be on my "proposed" route)
    -taxis are available but hard to get on a busy night

    Story: I want to run a flat rate shuttle (all you can ride for somewhere between $5-$10)
    - I want to run a loop of 9 bars (14 bars will be accessible). The round trip would be 8 miles.
    -Running on Friday and Saturday nights year round. (unless holidays lay on weekdays)
    - My start up vehicle will either be a 2000 Astro van ($0 cost - 6 passenger) unless I choose to "go for gold" and invest in a "party" shuttle or minibus ($5000 - 10-15 passenger)
    - Talking to people I know that are in the bar scene it sounds like demand is there. But advertising and price point are to be determined.

    Questions:
    -What Flat Rate (wrist band) price level should I start out at, my goal would be to service between 50-100 per night. I would also offer 1 way rides at a lower cost depending on what my flat rate price is. (I will only be using one vehicle to start with)
    -which vehicle should I go with? If business is good and all I have is a 6 passenger Astro van then it opens the door for one of the party bus businesses to poach my business. If I go into this fully prepared for higher demand by purchasing a 10-15 passenger shuttle I will be able to corner this market.
    -Is running a "loop" a good idea? "loop" is a loose term, I would probably opt not to set times but I would prefer to only run these set bars.
    -I will be starting my advertising via social media as well as have advertisements on the vehicle. any other suggestions?
    -I would like to get some of the bars to advertise on the bus as an incentive to drop off at their door step. How do I go about doing this?

    All help is appreciated. Thanks

  2. #2

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    I think your figures are low for costs. Insurance companies are not going to be excited about a new operator running an old minivan as a shuttle. I'd double that figure that you estimated. $200 for gas for a month? I spend that on a sedan in 3 days. Figure at least $80 per night that you're in operation.

    A new operator with a party bus? I'd imagine your insurance costs would be closer to $1k / month.

    We can't tell you how to price your service because we don't know your costs. This is one of the biggest problems in this industry, operators pricing themselves at a point because "that's what people are willing to pay." This is one of the quickest ways to go out of business. You price it at what you need to cover your costs plus what you need to live on. Otherwise, you die a slow death of operating at a loss until you become insolvant and lose everything. You really need to know your costs.

    $5 for a ride? Without even knowing your costs I can tell you that it won't be worth it. My opinion is to stick with one flat rate for a band that they wear all night to ride. At those prices, don't make it so complicated with a pricing schedule. Get the money up front at the start of the night because trying to collect from a drunk college kid at the end of the night is going to be tough.

    No reputable party bus operation wants to ferry around drunk college kids for $10 per person. Their vehicles will be destroyed in no time with no recourse to fix the damage / recoup for the biohazard mess that needs to be cleaned up on a daily / hourly basis.

    Only way to truly know is to try it out and do it.
    Andrew Armitage
    Vintage Chauffeuring LLC
    Andrew@VintageChauffeuring.com
    www.VintageChauffeuring.com

  3. #3

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    $200 per month was what I was quoted from the insurance company that would I would be going through. Thats for both general liability (up to 1m) and auto liability (up to 500k) combined maybe that is low? not sure.

    Thank you for opening my eyes to the fact I should plan for higher costs and then try to cut costs.

    What would you suggest testing it by running the van or spending the money and be completely prepared by getting the "party shuttle"?

    If I were to charge $10 per person I feel as if there would need to be a more of an incentive then just "all you can ride" I feel as if I would need an end of the night take home route (for the college kids especially) I would just make a loop around the campus and have a couple stops.

  4. #4

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    Hi, I'm straight north of you on I-29, (Fargo). Your idea has been tried here more than once, never lasted. remember there are several transportation companies in your town already, if it was a good idea, one of them would already be doing it.

    One thing to check is will the city consider you a taxi. Charter and party buses are booked in advance, giving rides to anyone who hands you $5 may be considered competing with taxis. The guy who is doing it now is private if he owns the bars he goes to. You don't want the taxi companies complaining to city hall that you are infringing on their business. To get around taxi laws, have a contract with the bars, have them sell the rides, that way you are working for them, not the public. Check this out at city hall. The down side of working through a bar is they could not renew their contract if they think more customers are leaving than coming in.
    Another problem is at bar close, you will be overwhelmed, people will be upset if you are full and there goes future repeat business.


    You have to spend money to make money, a $5000 bus is going to be a maintenance nightmare that could put you out of business by eating up all your profits and causing downtime. A 15 passenger van would be a good idea. Also, when the local party bus guys see it they might not feel threatened. Get something too similar to a party bus and they will consider you competition and try to run you out of business before you get off the ground. Also party buses = high insurance, 15 passenger vans are normally used by churches, might mean lower rates.

    Good Luck, Kevin, Excaliber Limousine, Fargo

  5. #5
    Senior Member Billy Bob's Avatar
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    Bad Idea. When someone trips, falls, or exits you vehicle improperly (falling thru window) you may be subject to punitive damages. Most insurance companies do not cover this.

  6. #6

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    Quote Originally Posted by Billy Bob View Post
    Bad Idea. When someone trips, falls, or exits you vehicle improperly (falling thru window) you may be subject to punitive damages. Most insurance companies do not cover this.
    Isn't that what the General Liability Insurance is for?

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    I sold a bus to someone who tried this exact same thing in Sioux Falls and it failed. You're better off doing private charter. Not only is it more reliable but when drunk people only have $10 down and no credit card on file they will tear your bus to pieces. Especially when you mix groups of people who aren't friends the chance of a brawl breaking out on the vehicle multiplies.

  8. #8

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    Quote Originally Posted by brandon1 View Post
    I sold a bus to someone who tried this exact same thing in Sioux Falls and it failed. You're better off doing private charter. Not only is it more reliable but when drunk people only have $10 down and no credit card on file they will tear your bus to pieces. Especially when you mix groups of people who aren't friends the chance of a brawl breaking out on the vehicle multiplies.
    Do you know how long ago this was tried? I could do a private charter but I'd like to be able to service more then 1 group per night in order to keep price low.

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    Senior Member Party Bus Andy's Avatar
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    Are you trying to provide a cheap service or make money?
    Andy
    937-620-9120
    937-524-5899 (office)
    Dunlap Limousine, LLC
    http://www.dunlaplimo.com

  10. #10

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    Quote Originally Posted by Party Bus Andy View Post
    Are you trying to provide a cheap service or make money?
    haha Both

  11. #11

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    If it were myself I would just invest in a party bus if you can buy it outright with cash. Get one with rubber floors for easy cleaning and nothing that can really get broken, it's not like this is a bachelor party type situation where it's gotta be pimpin. I can attest to low overhead and I can also attest to even at a super low overhead I'm not booking squat in my area! When it just sounds like the best idea ever for where you are at you gotta wonder why not many others are doing it. Could be a great second job for Fri/sat nights but how many kids go out during the week all the time and college kids are so cheap they would rather buy a couple more beers and just walk home. Come up with something funny and the drunk college kids will think it's awesome lol. I can't see $200/mo insurance with a party bus holding 15 people though so might want to get a more concrete price on that. Ya only live once and if ya don't give it a shot you will always wonder what may have been..Good luck

  12. #12

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    Quote Originally Posted by LoneLimo View Post
    If it were myself I would just invest in a party bus if you can buy it outright with cash. Get one with rubber floors for easy cleaning and nothing that can really get broken, it's not like this is a bachelor party type situation where it's gotta be pimpin. I can attest to low overhead and I can also attest to even at a super low overhead I'm not booking squat in my area! When it just sounds like the best idea ever for where you are at you gotta wonder why not many others are doing it. Could be a great second job for Fri/sat nights but how many kids go out during the week all the time and college kids are so cheap they would rather buy a couple more beers and just walk home. Come up with something funny and the drunk college kids will think it's awesome lol. I can't see $200/mo insurance with a party bus holding 15 people though so might want to get a more concrete price on that. Ya only live once and if ya don't give it a shot you will always wonder what may have been..Good luck
    I appreciate the encouraging words. My target market would be college age kids but in Sioux Falls there is practically nothing to do besides go to the bars on friday/saturdays so mid 20 year olds will be attracted to this as well. As far as the bus getting trashed. I understand that party buses get their fair share of "messes" but there will be no drinks provided on this shuttle but I guess I will expect someone to puke every once in a while. Also for any fights, the driver will conceal carry Bang Bang...

  13. #13

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    Quote Originally Posted by broncos2729 View Post
    I appreciate the encouraging words. My target market would be college age kids but in Sioux Falls there is practically nothing to do besides go to the bars on friday/saturdays so mid 20 year olds will be attracted to this as well. As far as the bus getting trashed. I understand that party buses get their fair share of "messes" but there will be no drinks provided on this shuttle but I guess I will expect someone to puke every once in a while. Also for any fights, the driver will conceal carry Bang Bang...
    Puke every once in a while? I bet once in a while will be more frequent then you think!

    I'd stay far and away from that business plan.

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    Quote Originally Posted by broncos2729 View Post
    Do you know how long ago this was tried? I could do a private charter but I'd like to be able to service more then 1 group per night in order to keep price low.
    I would guess and say 4 years ago. It doesn't really make much of a difference if it was yesterday or 10 years ago though. It's really not a good business model. I've seen two companies here do it locally and fail.

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    Quote Originally Posted by metroguy2012 View Post
    Puke every once in a while? I bet once in a while will be more frequent then you think!

    I'd stay far and away from that business plan.
    These are poor college kids. This is the group that will go out to the car to drink at the bar to save money or slam 5 beers before heading there. Do you think they won't be bringing alcohol with them and drinking it on the bus? I would be surprised if you could make it to the end of the weekend without someone puking. Since it's not a private charter with a credit card on file you will be cleaning up puke for free instead of making an extra $200.

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