Owners of the Boozer Cruiser designated driver service in Fort Smith appeared in court Monday after they were charged with operating a business without a license.
The city says the company’s license expired June 16, 2011.
Shannon Pulliam and his mother, Janie McKiney, both entered a not guilty plea to the charge which carries a potential penalty of up to a $500 fine. A trial is scheduled for January 23, 2013.
Pulliam founded Boozer Cruiser ten years ago after he recognized a need for it in the area. He said the city initially told him he couldn’t charge for his services, so he began the non-profit operation based strictly on donations.
They now ask for a minimum donation of $5 per rider, but Pulliam said his drivers won’t turn away someone who is unable to pay.
Boozer Cruiser recently added a party bus to their fleet. The owners coordinate trips to places such as Razorback games and concerts and rent the bus out for other special events.
Passengers pay a fee to ride the bus and are allowed to drink alcohol on board.
“The problem with that is, you can’t drink in public,” said Sgt. Daniel Grubbs with the Fort Smith Police Department. “We make that stop and you have open containers, we can cite you and arrest you for drinking in public.”
Since the company charges passengers to ride the bus, it also raises questions about the type of business they are operating.
Sgt. Grubbs says there are specific guidelines that must be followed by companies operating with a taxi cab or a limousine license. Boozer Cruiser does not fall into either of those categories.
“Is this a business? There’s a permit that should be issued or at least obtained if you want to continue,” said Sgt. Grubbs. “If not, we ask that you discontinue this type of business.”
Pulliam says some weekends Boozer Cruiser doesn’t make enough money to cover their business expenses.
“This is not a ploy for me to make tons of money off the citizens of Fort Smith, and I think the people that ride with me and know the Boozer Cruiser know that,” said Pulliam.
Pulliam said he and McKiney have both been physically attacked while driving the Boozer Cruiser. Despite the danger, he feels it’s his duty to ensure people get home safely.
“It’s a passion,” he said. “It’s part of our life.”
Pulliam says they will continue to run the Boozer Cruiser while they work with the city to secure the appropriate license.