Over the past month, Christopher Tarr has spent his Friday and Saturday evenings fielding slurred phone calls and deciphering drunken texts and Twitter pleas from folks looking to be safely delivered from one area entertainment district to another.
His newly launched 48-seat school bus-turned-shuttle service, West Side Shuffle (216-673-4222, westsideshuffle.com), cruises through Lakewood, Ohio City and W. Sixth Street offering rides between all points on the route for $4 ($6 for credit transactions).
To get a taste of what's in store for his future, Tarr decided to make the rounds on the Wednesday evening before Thanksgiving. "This should be a good indicator of what we can expect over the summer," he laughs. Scene caught up with Tarr afterwards to trade a few stories from the road.
Nikki Delamotte: So, how did it go last night?
Christopher Tarr: We actually had two big groups travel from Merry Arts Pub to Jukebox and from West Sixth Street to Platform. It shows people are really starting to understand how everything works. Come summertime we're going to start adding special tours, too, like day trips, shopping trips and vineyard tours.
ND: Business must be picking up. You recently expanded the route to West Sixth Street.
CT: Every night is different and, in fact, every hour is really different. If one bar's too crowded, the idea is to be able to get on and get off and not get stuck in one neighborhood. If we drop off 50 people on W. 25th Street and half want to stay and half want to leave, there probably wouldn't be four cabs to take them where they want to go. We're a major city, we shouldn't have that problem.
If you're in Ohio City, any one bar to another is discounted to $2. I don't want to deter people from going to the newer bars in Ohio City not on the strip, like Jukebox, Porco and Platform. Those bars need more streamlined traffic. So a discounted price will help get people there. Those bar owners were a huge help in getting this started. I want to help them because they helped me get my start too.
ND: How can we spot you on the street? What's this bus look like?
CT: I hand painted the bus black this past summer. I love to see people's reactions when they think they're getting on this old, beat up school bus and when they walk on it's in pristine condition. The inside is a traditional baby blue color. You'll see us coming because there's a strobe light on top.
ND: You've had a month to test things out. Have you needed to make any adjustments?
CT: People being able to play their own music has really changed the dynamic. The whole place goes crazy. At first I was just playing a Top 40 station. Now I'm hearing songs from the early '90s. Someone put on "How Bizarre" the other night. It was fantastic. A group of guys came on the other day telling me, "You have to listen to this band, they're the greatest and we just heard about them. It's ZZ Top!" They kept playing all their songs and trying to tell me they were brand new. Once I even had a guy start mixing music while he was on the bus.
ND: So it just became a roving DJ-ed bus party?
CT: That wasn't the first time. Our third night out, the bus turned into a giant dance party. A girl said, "I'm putting on my music!" so of course I said, "Go for it." She called it her "Birthday Beyoncé Mix." It turned into 25 people dancing to Beyoncé on the bus. The windows were down, the lights were on. People said, "This is the best night ever!" That's exactly what we want.