Mixing Beer, Bikes Makes For Irresponsible Cocktail, Yet Dealers Persist In Serving Booze

EAST HARTFORD, CT – It’s National Beer Day, and it’s providing yet another example of motorcycle dealers being irresponsible by serving alcohol in their stores. The notable culprits are Hartford Harley-Davidson in East Hartford, CT and Old School Harley-Davidson in Ellington, CT.

It’s a practice that’s not only irresponsible but presents a bad look for the motorcycle industry and the riding community. It’s also downright risky from a liability standpoint.

The statistics alone scream that restraint and responsibility are needed. The most recent data from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration reveal that 26 percent of motorcycle deaths involved operators who were alcohol impaired.

Motorcyclists involved in fatal crashes, and who were either killed or survived, had a higher percentage of alcohol impairment (25 percent) than any other type of motor vehicle driver. Passenger car drivers came in at 21 percent. The last time I checked riding a motorcycle requires a lot more motor skill and mental awareness than driving a car, which makes the data even scarier.

It’s dumbfounding that dealers continue to hand out booze even as a significant majority of the riding community detests the practice.

An unscientific poll last year by RIDE-CT & RIDE-New England had 38.61 percent declaring the practice to be “irresponsible.” An additional 33 percent said any dealer that offers alcohol is downright “nuts.” Only 28.38 percent of those voting didn’t have an issue with the serving of alcohol.

Despite the data and public opinion to the contrary, some dealers still take a sudsy approach to promotion. Hartford Harley-Davidson as well as sister store Old School Harley-Davidson have this week been promoting National Beer Day parties at their stores from 6 to 8 p.m. today.

They promise “Beer Tasting” and “Beer Games.”

Given the hours of the parties and the weather forecast for today, it’s unlikely that very many folks will show up on motorcycles. But the linkage between bikes and beers still exists. Instead of reinforcing a message of “If You Ride, Don’t Drink; If You Drink, Don’t Ride,” Hartford Harley-Davidson and Old School Harley-Davidson are basically saying it’s OK to do so.

A disclaimer on promotional material for the parties saying “Please Drink Responsibly” seems more like a cruel joke and than a sincere reminder. An accompanying video promoting the National Beer Day celebration has employees cracking some pop tops and sloshing beer on themselves in their fervor to down the barley pop.

RIDE-CT & RIDE-New England isn’t preaching sobriety or seeking a reinstatement of Prohibition. A good beer is a good thing in the proper circumstances. Heck, two hours spent with friends on Sunday afternoon at Clocktown Brewing Company in Thomaston was time well spent.

But I do have a gripe about Clocktown as well. Out front are parking spaces with signs noting that they’re reserved for motorcycles. Again, a case of suggesting that it’s OK to mix two enjoyable recreations. It simply isn’t.

Yes, any rider can pull up to a bar, but the spot dispensing booze should never be a dealership. Dealers should be promoting responsible, safe riding; not encouraging bad behavior.

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About Bud Wilkinson

Bud Wilkinson writes the "RIDE-CT" motorcycle column and the "My Ride" classic car feature in the "Republican-American" newspaper in Waterbury, CT. A graduate of Vermont Academy, he received a B.A. degree journalism from Ohio Wesleyan University in 1975. He is the recipient of a Scripps Howard Foundation National Journalism Award in 1992 and a 1991-92 regional Emmy Award for commentary. He currently rides a 1987 BMW R 80 RT and a 2014 Triumph Bonneville and drives a 2010 Mazda MX-5 Miata and 2008 Ford Ranger pickup.

3 comments

  1. I think Richard has a point, but at the same time, its an optics thing. Do Nissan dealers have beer tents? Does BMW dealers hold wine tastings on the showroom floor? I think the point is, if something bad ever happened and it caught on the newcycle.. it would be a huge black eye for the moto industry.

    That said, I do have a beer or two with dinner and drive home in a car. If i’m in for a night of drinking, i uber home. Same rules should apply for a motorcycle. I think the wider question is, why are bars allowed to have huge parking lots with no public transit options (and some too far outside of Uber/lyft areas)? In a way, thats asking for drunk driving. Like most things in life, personal responsibility is a huge part of it.

  2. Richard Karczyk

    It’s okay to go out for dinner and have a glass of wine, or enjoy a beer flight, get back in your car and drive home, but its not okay to do the same thing on a motorcycle? I understand the concern, but we can’t have a concern for one and not the other because simply put, that’s the definition of discrimination. People need to consume alcohol responsibly and they need to be served alcohol responsibly. If both parties involved understand that, there shouldn’t be a much of a concern. I know that when I go out and have dinner its a two drink max, in the time span of say two hours. the servers who have been properly trained and certified by the state of CT know not to over serve me. if the establishment abides by the laws and regulations set forth by the state of Connecticut and is licensed, I see no issue here, What I see is an opinion.

  3. Louis Abbondelo

    Is this legal?

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