Pedal-powered beer boat on Prague's Vltava river is already caught up in controversy

Local authorities are already looking at ways to limit a pedal-powered beer boat,

Raymond Johnston

Written by Raymond Johnston Published on 09.08.2019 13:02:17 (updated on 09.08.2019) Reading time: 4 minutes

A new Prague tourist attraction, a pedal-powered beer boat, has been launched on the Vltava river, and local authorities are already looking at ways to limit it.

The operator of the Prague Cycle Boat is the same company, Prague Pub Crawl, that runs the pedal-powered beer bikes. The latter are currently in the process of being banned in the city. The company also runs pub crawls, beer tastings, brewery tours and several non-alcohol related tours.

The beer boat was launched in Prague in July. While the boat travels in the city center, the Prague 1 Town Hall is powerless to stop it. The district’s authority only extends as far as the shore. Customers, though, could face legal action once they return to land.

The boat operates in a similar manner to the beer bikes. “Our pedal boats have space for up to 11 passengers. We supply a licensed captain who remains sober,” the website for Prague Cycle Boat states.

The website emphasizes the ability to drink large amounts of alcohol: “Make it boozy with 30 liters of ice-cold premium Czech beer, Prosecco or wine packs and a cute barkeeper. Pizza is also available.”

The tour takes and hour and a half, and goes from Čechův most and goes up to Štvanice Island and then down under the Charles Bridge and down to Střelecký Island. If all of the beer is consumed, it comes to over five large beers for each customer in less than two hours, which meets most definitions of binge drinking.

The customers pedal the boat to power it, while drinking beer or wine. The sober captain controls the direction and in case of strong current operates an engine.

While the company claims that under the boating law only the captain has to remain sober, the police disagree.

“According to the opinion of the State Navigation Administration (SPS), it is a small vessel and if all those sitting on it are propelling it, they are in the position of a crew and therefore must not be under the influence of alcohol or other narcotic or psychotropic substances,” Municipal Police spokeswoman Irena Seifertová said, according to press reports.

Promotional video for the Prague Cycle Boat. via Youtube

Viktor Hübner, director of Prague Pub Crawl, states that the police and SPS interpretation is wrong. “Regarding alcohol consumption, the boat is fully serviced by a captain, who of course is sober, has passed examinations at the State Navigation Administration, and holds a valid certificate. The captain has the vessel fully under control all the time and the passengers have no influence on the voyage,” he told daily Mladá fronta Dnes.

The SPS has classified the boat as a self-propelled recreational craft but is still negotiating with the owner about operating conditions. Hynek Beneš, director of the Prague branch of the SPS, says the SPS is trying ensure the boat complies with the currently valid rules.

So far, the SPS and River Police Department have not taken action against the operators or the customers.

Prague 1 City Hall says it will closely monitor the situation. “It is a matter of the SPS, which gives licenses to ships to travel here, and the River Police, which is authorized to enter ships. Our only option is to wait for the boat to finish, and as soon as its passengers enter the shore we can deal with them,” Prague 1 Deputy Mayor Petr Hejma (STAN) said.

Alcohol consumption on boats is not a new issue, and not restricted to just Prague. A draft law that would have eased the strict rules regarding alcohol and boating across the Czech Republic failed to get past the Senate earlier this year.

The same company’s beer bikes should have been off of Prague streets at the end of August, but will continue to be allowed until an appeal filed by with the Czech Ministry of Transport is resolved.

paddle boards
Paddle board rentals. via Raymond Johnston

The SPS has restricted paddleboarding as of August 1 from between Štvanice Island to the Výtoň railway bridge, with the exception of areas immediately around Dětský, Střelecký and Slovanský islands. The reason for the restriction is safety, as the area is crowded with boats.

The city and city districts have been trying to clean up Prague’s image as a wild place where anything goes. Segways were banned in much of the city center starting in the end of 2016. Drinking alcohol in public has also been restricted in many residential areas and city parks for some time. Currently the city is working with bar owners to to limit pub crawls in the Dlouha Street area to reduce noise.

Restrictions have also been placed on busking, limiting the hours and banning amplified electric instruments. Begging in large animal costumes has also recently caught the attention of City Hall. Routes for so-called historical vehicles, actually modern cars with retro bodies, are also being regulated due to parking space issues.

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