As a native Memphian, I'm very familiar with Backbeat Tours and have had the pleasure of taking several of them over the years. The quality is top-notch, and I've always been impressed by how your tours provide the perfect mix of fun, entertainment, and education. Despite being a local, each time I've taken one of Backbeat's tours I've walked away with a richer knowledge of my city, which is awesome.
Backbeat Tours recently partnered with Sprock n' Roll to team up for a Haunted Pub Crawl. We've previously teased this event on our blog, but I recently had the opportunity to speak with Meagan May of Backbeat Tours and Ashely Coleman from Sprock n' Roll to get the inside scoop on what to expect during this fun night on the town.
Johanna: Can you give me a little bit of the background on how Sprock n' Roll and Backbeat Tours came together. What sparked collaboration and how did you guys come up with the idea for the Haunted Pub Crawl?
Meagan May: Ashley approached us about collaborating for a private group request for a Haunted Pub Crawl on the bike. That was when we first started thinking that this could be something fun and unique to bring to the Downtown scene on a regular basis and offer to the public. We still offer the tours on request for private parties, as well.
Johanna: Can you give our readers a little tease of some of the fun stories they'll hear while on the tour?
Meagan May: The first pub stop is at Local Gastropub on Main St. right across from Aldo's Pizza Pies. The alley that sits to the side of that place is Barbaro Alley, named after the Barbaro family and Grocery Store that used to operate in that building. Barbaro Alley was also sometimes called "Deadman's Alley" during the horrific Yellow Fever Epidemic of 1878. That bout of the disease cost Memphis almost 20,000 lives and we lost our city charter. When the hospitals, infirmaries, and mortuaries filled up, the dead were brought to that alley to await burial (something that took a long time because of the mass exodus that took place at the time--people fled the city in droves to avoid catching the fever). The alleyway is a great place to catch paranormal phenomena on camera, and the inside of the bar is equally creepy since most of the wait staff there have seen or heard unexplained incidents taking place late at night.
The story of Deadman's Alley is particularly one of my favorites, because not only is it such a creepy visual (having bodies piled 3-4 high on both sides of the alleyway) but it's such a tragic time in Memphis (and even American) history. Something like that doesn't just happen without leaving a lasting mark on the land around it.
Ashley Coleman: Meagan did an amazing job answering the first two questions. The only thing I'll add is that at the first stop (Local) each rider has the opportunity to take a "Bloody Corpse Shot" for $5. It's red in consistency and is pretty "deadly" if you get my drift:)
Johanna: One cool thing about your pedal tours is that you still have the option to go even if you're not able (or interested) in pedaling. Sprock n' Roll has ten seats that require pedaling, and six seats that allow riders to just relax. How do you determine who will pedal vs. who sits on the benches? Is this something that needs to be reserved beforehand, or is it first come, first served?
Ashley Coleman: As far as deciding who pedals and who doesn't, it depends on how quick you are at grabbing the non-pedaling seats. Of course if there is someone who cannot pedal, guests are happy to switch spots if needed to allow the person who cannot pedal the back bench or other non-pedaling position. We have had some people with bum knees or pregnant and have never had an issue reserving a non-pedaling spot for them. When people sign up for the party bike, they are usually prepared to get their pedal on. We think this is the novelty of the bike. If you wanted to be taxied around town, then you better call an uber or cab. We also tell people that there is no assigned seating. So, if after the first stop people want to switch it up, they are welcome to.
Johanna: How does your alcohol policy work? I understand it's BYOB (and food!) during the actual ride, but that participants can get special discounted drinks at each stop. Are there any limitations on what types of alcohol or foods riders are allowed to bring? Do riders typically bring snacks or is it more common to pack a full meal? Also, I know you have a tap on board and offer an option for riders to purchase a keg from Boscos. Is this available only for private parties, or are smaller groups allowed to purchase this as well?
Ashley Coleman: The alcohol policy is that guests bring their own. They are allowed any beverage of choice, as long as it is in a plastic container. No glass is allowed on the bike at any time due to city rules. Snacks are welcome as well. We have had people bring full on meals, cakes, small snacks, etc. We encourage people not to sit down and eat along the route b/c that will waste their pedaling time and bar hopping time. Aldo's in on our route in both Midtown and Downtown, so many times the group will call ahead to get a pizza and we will stop while someone hops off and gets the grub. There is no shame is pedaling and eating! Some people will bring snacks, some people won't. There are so many good restaurant choices downtown most people eat beforehand or after the ride. So, the tap. Riders can bring a pony keg on board from anywhere. Boscos offers our guests such a great deal (at $55) we like to advertise that to them. I guess smaller groups could bring a pony keg on, but that may get a little hairy with getting reimbursed. Sprock n' Roll is not allowed to have anything to do selling any sort of alcohol due to state laws so we have to walk a fine line there.
We have an extensive list of bar partners we have teamed up with that offer our customers exclusive drink specials. They vary in what is offered so that riders have a choice of what they are feeling/craving and what atmosphere they are looking for. See http://www.sprocknrollmemphis.com/route/Downtown-Route for the bar stops and specials on our traditional route and http://www.sprocknrollmemphis.com/route/Haunted-Pub-Crawl for what is offered on the Haunted Tour.
Johanna: How far in advance would you recommend people book their tickets?
Meagan May: Typically, online booking for the bike tours closes 24 hours before the tour, but we've extended that deadline for the Pub Crawls so that you can buy tickets online until 6pm on the nights we offer Boos and Booze! But it's still highly recommended to buy tickets well in advance.
Ashley Coleman: We do encourage booking as much in advance as possible. Due to the fact that you have to have a minimum of eight, people who are looking at booking can see how many tickets are available, and how many have been booked. When not many tickets have been purchased, I feel like some people shy away only to see that a few days later we may have had several people pull the trigger (hence, they may miss their opportunity). It always helps people to go ahead and book to see if there are others also interested. With our booking system, no one's card is charged until the minimum of 8 is reached. Therefore, you do have to enter your credit card info to reserve your spot, but you will not be charged until at least 8 have booked.
Johanna: I imagine things can get pretty zany on some of your tours. Do you have any many memorable stories you'd like to share?
Ashley Coleman: Ahh, the memories! All I can say is that is such a FUN experience. Those who don't know each other may leave as best friends. It is a really fun job b/c you get to meet so many interesting characters who by the end of the tour are laughing hysterically and ready to go again. Private parties have such a ball together b/c they are sometimes reconnecting after a few of them got married, parents escaping the kids, teachers blowing off some steam, college kids celebrating graduation, girls having a girls night out, or the bride and her girlfriends celebrating her last hurrah. The reasons to celebrate are endless. On this last haunted pub crawl we heard spooky stories of someone who had done a ghost tour in NOLA. What can beat some beer and the outdoors?
Johanna: What else would you like our readers to know about the Haunted Pub Crawl? Is there anything I haven't asked that you'd like for me to mention in the article?
Meagan May: As far as what I want people to know about the tour: I just want everyone to come with an open mind. Even if you're just being dragged along, and don't really "believe"--this city's history is steeped in tragic and sometimes gruesome events. I'm by no means saying that I've turned every skeptic into a believer (far from it), but I've been doing this long enough to know that anything is possible.