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Riding in style on the Portsmouth Party Bus

Published: Monday, October 8, 2007

Updated: Wednesday, February 13, 2013 15:02

It's a cool fall evening at the University of New Hampshire and students are rushing in line to board the Portsmouth Party Bus. As they climb into the sleek, green and gold bus the allure is apparent; plush leather couches, vividly bright plasma TVs, bass blaring music and - wait for it - a complementary beer.

"What could be better than this?" said UNH Senior, Nick Kostis, as he cracked open a fresh can of Bud Light. "A free ride and a free beer," Kostis remarked as he and other students sipped, gulped and chugged their way to Libby's Bar and Grill.

"Alright, let's go! We've got more people waiting," shouted a Party Bus attendant as he ushered students, as only an air traffic controller could, off the bus and into Libby's. That simple say-so resounds with what several post-Party Bus riders are already thinking.

"It's catching on quick," said UNH Senior Kelly Murphy, "last weekend they waited around [Davis Court] a few minutes. This weekend they pick-up, leave, and come right back."

In only its first month of operation, the Party Bus is the buzz of the UNH campus, where students are drinking eagerly, safely and cost-effectively. The Party Bus runs a continuous route every Tuesday and Thursday night from 7 to 10 p.m. connecting Young Drive, The Gables, The Woodside and Davis Court. The Party Bus will shuttle students back from Libby's to the above-mentioned locations before 10 p.m.

"I hope to see it all over the place," said Chris Pleshaw, former WSBE graduate and brainchild behind the Portsmouth Party Bus. In February 2006, Pleshaw purchased the 14 seat bus and promptly went to work, renovating and conceptualizing the self proclaimed "best limousine service in NH."

Libby's Manager Jay Mayuska said the idea for the Party Bus was initially modeled after Safe Rides, a university transportation service that provides students with a sober ride home. The Party Bus, however, offers precisely the opposite save the free transportation: a dizzying and desired ride to the bars.

According to the state liquor commission, Pleshaw is not required by law to own a liquor license because the beer being distributed is complementary and the bus is privately owned. University transportation services, on the other hand, are strictly prohibited from dispersing beer on board since drinking on university property is banned.

While UNH Police Department Deputy Chief Paul Dean contends that "anything that enables alcohol to be consumed is always the product of the problem," he does not dismiss the idea. Students are quickly taking a liking to it, which is why the Party Bus and Libby's collaboration is continuing to draw interest in a myriad of ways.

According to Mayuska, students that ride the Party Bus are eligible to enter a free raffle in which the winner pays only $5 for their bar tab that night, no matter how inflated at the time of the 12 p.m. drawing. Also, those who enter Libby's between 7 to 8 p.m. directly from the Party Bus are awarded discount prices dubbed "The Early Bird Advantage."

The Party Bus is fully equipped with leather couches on either side, plasma TVs at the front and rear, a stereo with iPod connectivity, a mini-refrigerator and strings of soft lights lining the ceiling; a true club experience.

Upon presenting a valid drivers license, a Party Bus attendant slaps an identification bracelet on each passenger, then hands them their drink of choice from a heap of alcoholic beverages. The apparent draw of a free bottle of beer in a posh social setting on wheels is surely hard to pass up for any cost-effective student.

"They're all over the place, just not here, yet. But, people here are amazed it's legal," said Pleshaw, who mimicked the idea from larger Northeastern cities.

Mayuska maintains that the Party Bus does not promote getting wasted. "It provides a safer aspect concerned with the service of liquor for people that are driving or are being driven," he said.

"It isn't promoting drinking any more than it is providing safety to students," said Pleshaw.

An imperative aspect for Murphy, who prefers to avoid the half-mile walk downtown from her Davis Court apartment. "I don't have to worry about myself or one of my friends driving to and from the bars," Murphy said.

"The difference for students is walking somewhere versus riding somewhere," said Dean, realizing its overwhelming appeal beyond the boos, "I guess I can't blame them."

As of right now, Mayuska and Pleshaw are using their time to fine-tune the advertising and marketing aspects of their project. Pleshaw said he has no immediate plans to extend its hours of operation but hopes to add two more vehicles to the fleet: a mini-van for the regular Party Bus route and a larger bus tailored fit for private events.

If the Party Buses popularity persists, Pleshaw could realize his goal of shifting away from shuttle busing to solely privatized tours sooner than later. But, for the time being, the Portsmouth Party Bus is here at UNH, waiting around the bend with a cold one on board.

The Portsmouth Party Bus caters to events of all sorts, such as party tours, corporate events, weddings, reunions, bachelor/bachelorette parties, concerts and cocktails and can be rented privately for $100 per hour. For information regarding the Portsmouth Party Bus call 1-888-PHAT-BUS.

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