‘Paddle Tavern’ to begin operating on Milwaukee River in May

Human-pedaled pontoon boat to carry up to 14 people

A picture of a PaddleTap boat Jaeger currently operates on Lake Minnetonka west of Minneapolis.

Adding a new twist to the concept of the Milwaukee PedalTavern, which takes bar-hoppers on a tour of the city’s choice watering holes while riding a pedal-powered vehicle, a new company will begin offering the same service this summer — but on the Milwaukee River.

Called the PaddleTavern, the company, created by co-founders Milwaukee-native Redmond Tuttle and a Minnesotan named Ryan Jaeger, will take as many as 14 people at a time on a two-hour cruise in a foot-powered, pontoon paddle boat down the Milwaukee River, stopping from bar-to-bar along the way.

Tuttle said the boat will leave from The Harp Irish Pub at 113 E .Juneau Ave., and travel down river, stopping at places such as The Rock Bottom Brewery and the Milwaukee Ale House, or “wherever the customer wants to go.” The first rides will begin in May, he said.

Milwaukee won’t be the first city to try out the paddle-boat-pub-crawl concept. Paddle Tavern co-founder Jaeger has been operating a pontoon paddle-boat tavern called the PaddleTap on Lake Minnetonka just west of Minneapolis for the past couple of years.

The PaddleTap has had some success and has multiple boats that hold up to 13 people. The boats have 10 paddle stations, which are basically bicycle seats around a bar in the center of the boat, and a bench that seats three.

Tuttle spent a year after he graduated high school volunteering at a Milwaukee nonprofit called All Hands Boatworks building wooden boats with kids. Although that was years ago, he maintained an interest in boating and thought it would be a cool idea to adopt the pedal tavern concept on the water.

He did some research online and saw that Jaeger had beat him to the punch. So he reached out to see if Jaeger had any interest in partnering on a similar business in Milwaukee and the Paddle Tavern was born.

“We got these boats custom made out of Oregon,” Jaeger said. “We also have some former Milwaukee Harbor policemen that ware working for us that are captains. It’s going to be a great new attraction in Milwaukee and it’s going to get people out on the water. It’s going to be a lot of fun, so we hope people get out and use it.

Each of the PaddleTavern captains have been licensed through the U.S. Coast Guard.

“If it’s a success this summer, maybe even halfway through the summer, we’ll buy another boat,” he said.

Guests will need to bring their own beverages and coolers onto the boat if they plan to drink between bar stops.

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Ben Stanley
Ben Stanley, former BizTimes Milwaukee reporter.