When Uber follows through on its plan to end its popular ride-booking service in Broward County on Friday, it will change the way many people access the area's abundant nightlife destinations. And that's troubling for local bar, nightclub and restaurant owners.
Available in most major cities across the country, the app-driven Uber has been operating in Broward County for a year and become such an integral part of local nightlife culture that its name is now a verb. Not only does the cost-effective convenience of the on-demand, door-to-door service encourage people to go out, bar owners say, its real value comes on the ride home.
"It takes the questioning out of how and when to go out," says Andy Yeager, COO of Tap 42 Craft Beer Bar and Kitchen in downtown Fort Lauderdale. "People don't want to play the line of, 'Have I had too much to drink or not?' With Uber, you are consciously making a decision to be on the right side of the question."
In April, the Broward County Commission passed an ordinance that layered Uber's own screening process with county-administered background checks and vehicle inspections. Calling it "one of the most hostile regulatory frameworks in the nation," Uber says the "costly, time-consuming barriers" have made it difficult to recruit enough drivers to meet demand, so the company is pulling out.
Calling Uber "inventive and cool," Yeager laments the decision to give people less choice about how to get around. "I'm not sure how it's going to affect my business," he says, "but I'm going to feel it personally, not being able to Uber around Fort Lauderdale."
Yeager is not giving up hope, however, and on Thursday, July 30, Tap 42 will host a #SaveUber party, highlighted by an interactive "confession" wall, where guests are encouraged to share their best #UberConfessions and support Uber through social media. An Uber-themed cocktail called the UberTail also will be served.
For its part, Uber is offering two free trips per person (up to $20 per trip) to or from the #SaveUber party by using promo code SAVEUBERTAP42.
A similar sentiment prevails at the popular American Social on Las Olas Boulevard, where the #SaveUber movement will be celebrated beginning at 6 p.m. The promo code SAVEUBERAMSOC will get you free Uber service to and from the restaurant, which will offer a complimentary Uber-Mule drink to those arriving by Uber.
Tim Petrillo, founding partner of the Restaurant People, which operates YOLO and Vibe Ultra Lounge in downtown Fort Lauderdale and the restaurant S3 on Fort Lauderdale beach, calls the departure of Uber a "total shame" for the county.
"It not only puts lives at risk — because the amount of people who use this service instead of driving after a night of drinking and having fun is massive — it also puts our county at a disadvantage from our other tourism competitors," he says.
Petrillo says he last used Uber on Tuesday in Nashville during a business trip that began with a ride from his home to Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport via Uber.
Fort Lauderdale resident Leia Bosco says the Uber app is so "incredibly efficient" that she even conquered Art Basel with it last year, the premium charge still more affordable than hotel and gallery valets.
"I Uber pretty often," she says. "I live close to downtown Fort Lauderdale and Las Olas, so when I venture out on nights or weekends Uber is so much easier than trying to find parking. Not to mention it's a much safer solution if you're planning on cocktailing. There's always a driver close by. I honestly feel safe even when I'm traveling solo."
Bosco got her first taste of Uber in Chicago, and says the service is indispensible for a tourist.
"Feeling safe and in control when not in my city was a huge plus," she says.
A #SaveUber party will begin 4 p.m. Thursday, July 30, at Tap 42, 1411 S. Andrews Ave., in Fort Lauderdale. Call 954-463-4900 or go to Facebook.com/Tap42Bar. Another party will begin at 6 p.m. Thursday at American Social, 721 E Las Olas Blvd., in Fort Lauderdale. Call 954-764-7005 or go toAmericanSocialBar.com.