Emotional Blame Game Hits The Party Bus Market

Martin Romjue
Posted on June 3, 2014
Party buses offer many advantages, such as safety poles and keeping drunk drivers off the road.

Party buses offer many advantages, such as safety poles and keeping drunk drivers off the road.


Party buses offer many advantages, such as safety poles and keeping drunk drivers off the road. 

Party buses offer many advantages, such as safety poles and keeping drunk drivers off the road.


We could have all seen this coming. Businesses provide a valuable service that a few customers abuse, resulting in criminal incidents and accidental deaths. Media coverage goes viral. Politicians and activists call for safety crackdowns. Regulatory ideas multiply, and before you know it, the service provided by the businesses gets strangled out of existence.

This could happen to the lucrative party limo bus market, a popular service niche that generates growing revenue for chauffeured transportation companies. With some high profile party bus deaths and the recent case of underage drunken teens trashing a party bus on Long Island, N.Y., the calls for crackdowns are mounting. The party buses are being blamed for one of the oldest human foibles: Drinking too much.
The irony here is the party bus market evolved as an alternative to drunken driving. The rate of alcohol-impaired fatalities has declined 64% since 1982. You can credit more enforcement and awareness, but the use of party buses contributed as well. Operators also have figured out a way to provide an engaging, entertaining experience in all types of elaborately designed limo buses from among a choice of coachbuilders. These buses often are fully tricked out with sound systems, lights, poles, comfortable seats, bars, and in some cases, a restroom.

As regulators get antsy, operators have a choice. They can react, complain and retreat into a defensive crouch, or come up with a plan to take control of the problem and manage it. Some compromises may be necessary, but the big picture means keeping the party bus market vibrant as a valued and legitimate way to get around. Many retail-oriented operators depend on this market. Below are some recommended standard operating practices and/or models for legislation:

Alcohol Consumption
Option 1: All alcohol is prohibited onboard a limo bus if anyone aboard is below the legal drinking age of 21. The client renting the limo bus must be required to prove that all passengers will be 21 or older if alcohol is being served, and the operator needs to secure the proof and keep it on file. Underage passengers always should have their bags, jackets, or backpacks inspected before boarding.

Option 2: California’s chaperone law can serve as a model for other states. Effective Jan. 1, 2013, limousine operators may require a chaperone age 25 or older to be present and responsible to ensure legal drinking on a party bus. Otherwise, the limousine operator must hire one or check IDs and verify the ages of passengers. Rich Azzolino, president of the Greater California Livery Association, told me operators have grown to like this law because it takes them off the liability hook. The last thing a limo operator wants is for his chauffeur to double as a bouncer, or pay the labor costs of an attendant on each party bus.

Safety In Motion
The industry already should be self-policing the problem of partying passengers in motion. The tumble-out-door accidents are entirely preventable. Aside from requiring legal operators to properly maintain exit doors, limousine services could benefit from a move-sit/stop-dance policy. Everyone stays seated while the bus is in motion. Use of seatbelts would be optional, but encouraged. Dancing and partying around poles should happen only when the bus is safely parked. There are plenty of ways to persuade clients to obey such a policy.

Resolving safety issues while preserving revenue streams requires balance and compromise. When new rules are proposed, operators via their associations should insist they be tied to greater enforcement against illegal party bus operators, which are sources of much of the mayhem. State and local governments nationwide must work harder toward busting the illegal ones. Otherwise, new regulations on law-abiding operators could be perceived as too onerous and driving limo bus operators off the legal grid.

Long-Term Solution
As I stated on the LCT Blog in April, the long-range solution for party bus spectacles is to support efforts to lower the legal drinking age back to 18. 2014 marks the 30th anniversary of that federal law, one of the most destructive nanny-state rules ever enacted. Blame binge drinking among young people and the push to drink illegally mostly on this ill-conceived law. If the Europeans can handle drinking ages as low as 16 for beer, then the U.S. can manage bringing its drinking age back in line with adulthood. In case anyone is confused, an adult is someone who can vote, serve on a jury, get drafted, be held legally responsible for contracts, and consent to sex with other adults. That’s 18.
Regulations, despite noble intents, always have consequences. Making it too cumbersome to operate or rent a limo party bus will come full circle. Those drinking, dancing clients could waltz right back to private vehicles, or seek out illegal party buses. Consumers clearly are willing to pay for party buses. In America, entrepreneurs always find the best ways to meet such free market desires. With limo buses, it’s all about enjoying a drink during a nice ride and having a good time on your way to somewhere else. Yes, it really is that simple. Let’s keep it that way.

Related Topics: difficult clients, drunk passengers, LCT editor, Martin Romjue, party buses, regulatory enforcement, state regulations, underage drinking

Martin Romjue Editor
Comments ( 4 )
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  • anthony

     | about 6 years ago

    The chaperone should be provided by the limousine company !!!! A chaperone that is provided by the customer is going to hang out in the party bus. We just had another teen death in los angeles, this was not a party bus but those old style london double decker open roof buses. The customers had chaperones but the media reports the teen stood up on the seat while on the freeway and was struck by a freeway sign.

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