Recently, I sat down with Kevin Oliver who is the owner of a designated driving service called Booze Crews. Below are the highlights of our conversation.
Q: Why a designated driving service?
A: When I looked around at my hometown I was seeking to start a service that Naperville needed. I recently moved near the downtown Naperville area and I saw that there was a strong police presence during the nighttime hours. I approached a few officers who explained that due to the large concentration of bars, there sometimes are “problems” and their presence reduces “incidents”. After going home and doing some research, I found that Naperville ranked #2 for D.U.I. arrests in the state of Illinois. I had lost a friend from high school when an intoxicated driver crashed into his car when he was on his way back from college. I decided that I would start a designated driving service for the city of Naperville.
Q: Why start the business in Naperville?
A: Naperville is my hometown. I graduated from Naperville Central high school and I have been involved with non-profit organizations based in Naperville since 2005. I felt that I could provide a worthwhile and needed service to my community. I created the motto “Saving Lives One Car At A Time” and I know this is exactly what Booze Crews offers.
Q: How does the service work?
A: I have a collapsible scooter that is no larger than a set of golf clubs when folded. I meet the client at their vehicle, place the folded scooter in the trunk of their car, drive them and their car home and then I use the scooter as my transportation back. Essentially the service works like a chauffeur for hire since it is the customer’s car being used as the transportation vehicle. It is a bit difficult to explain, but the concept was featured on CBS 2 Chicago. There is video available on you tube showing the concept.
Q: What has the response been to the company and the concept?
A: The response from citizens and police has been phenomenal. When I park the scooter in Naperville, I am typically approached about the strange looking vehicle and I take the opportunity to inform people about the service. I was told by a couple that they appreciate that this service is something offered in Naperville. I have also been told by motorcyclists that the service bridges the gap between drivers and riders. Even a Naperville police officer approached me and said he was waiting for they day that they can tell Police Chief Dial that the reason they didn’t have a D.U.I. arrest or a car accident involving alcohol or even a death was because of the designated driving service Booze Crews. I have been interviewed about Booze Crews on tv on CBS 2 Chicago. On the radio, I was interviewed on WLS 890 AM Chicago, WGN 720 AM Chicago and on the Dwyer and Michaels show out of Davenport, Iowa on 97X FM. The business has also been featured in the Naperville Sun and the Chicago Sun Times. I did present the concept to Mayor A. George Pradel in his office and he invited me to a liquor commission meeting. It was at that meeting that I realized that my designated driver concept was not wanted.
Q: What happened at the liquor commission meeting?
A: The meeting took place on August 6th 2009 and I walked into a room of police, council members, local bar owners and the mayor. I presented the concept to the group and even brought the scooter into the meeting room. After my presentation concluded, I was recognized by my former wrestling coach at Naperville Central Bill Young who gave me a thumbs up and said I was doing a good thing. Riff Menza, of the Restaurant Association of Naperville, told me “No one is over-served in Naperville”. It was after Mr. Menza’s statement that I began to receive what seemed like strange questions from the rest of the committee. Some of the questions I received were, “How much does the scooter cost”, “How many rides have you given before bringing this to our attention”, “How do you get someone to sign your waiver when they are intoxicated” and even “What if a young lady says that you raped her”. I answered as honestly and professionally as I could. I was in shock that people who represent Naperville and have control over its liquor licenses would be treating a voting citizen in such a way. It was at the end of the meeting when Mayor Pradel’s said “I’m not sure if council would allow something like this to happen in Naperville”.
Q: Is there a transcript of the liquor commission meeting and all that you were put through?
A: Yes there is a copy of the meeting minutes. Not everything was caught in the meeting minutes, but is clear by reading the meeting minutes now that Booze Crews is not welcome in Naperville.
Q: After the liquor commission meeting what happened then?
A: I attempted to move the concept forward and try to satisfy the city of Naperville’s requirements, but I quickly realized I was caught in an endless sea of bureaucracy. The city did not know how to categorize Booze Crews for regulation so they said I was a solicitor, which clearly the service is not. I got a permit for solicitation to satisfy their demand. Then they began to inflict other limits and regulations including obtaining insurance far and above what is necessary. It was apparent that I was getting regulated and ‘taxed’ out of business.
Q: Why do you think the city of Naperville did not feel your service was good for the city?
A: Since a comment was made that Naperville establishments do not over serve, it is possible that by approving my business it is an admission that a need exists. Additionally a unique and successful designated driving service cuts into the profits of many other businesses including the city itself. That may seem strange but in the world of D.U.I. many entities rely on a stream of revenue generated from folks who are over served. As sad as that is, it’s true.
Q: Is your business still in operation?
A: We do still have the same phone number and I do receive phone calls as late as 3AM on weekends asking for the service. If I am available, I will assist the customer in any way possible. I will offer to call them a taxi and to call the non-emergency police phone number to report that their car will be parked overnight. Booze Crews has been requested in some instances to operate special events?
Q: What type of events?
A: We have been asked to assist with the Midwest Brewers Fest in Plainfield, IL in the instance that one of their patron’s does not feel comfortable driving home. Booze Crews will be providing exclusive services to the Midwest Brewers Fest on August 27th 2011.
Q: How can people contact Booze Crews?
A: We can be reached by visiting www.BoozeCrews.com or via email Kevin.Oliver@AdsOnUs.biz