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Safe, sober ride home available

Safe Ride, a local sober cab option, is the result of planning and collaboration from numerous people and organizations. From left are Karl Jacobson of Slim's Bar and Grill; Ashli Bowen, who serves on the Drug Free Coalition Steering Committee and is executive director of the United Way of Bemidji Area; Jay Passa, who is with Bemidji State University peer educators and is a DFC Coalition member; Bill Smith, owner/operator of 1st City Taxi/Safe Ride; Dawn Eve of Jammers; Mitch Rautio of Keg 'N' Cork; Dave...

Local residents now have an option for getting home safely after an evening of celebration.

Safe Ride is a nonprofit endeavor that provides safe, sober rides for people seeking transportation home.

"It's the first step in sharing the burden of adults drinking responsibility," said Jill Naylor-Yarger, director of the Drug Free Coalition of North Central Minnesota.

Safe Ride is the result of a collaboration between the newly established Beltrami Area Beverage Association, the Drug Free Coalition, 1st City Taxi and Bemidji State University

An effort to develop a sober cab option in Bemidji has been a long time in the making.

But Shelly Baker of Big North Distributing made a push for its development after attending an Anheuser-Busch program on consumer education.

So Baker contacted her accounts and meetings were held, which eventually led to the formation of the BABA.

"It has been BABA's plan from the start, since we were organized, to put together a Safe Ride option," said Karl Jacobson of Slim's Bar and Grill. Jacobson is the president of BABA.

Bill Smith, who formerly operated 1st City Limousine, also was involved in conversations and meetings. He, too, was interested in developing a safe-ride program. But he soon learned that a sober cab would need to be licensed and insured.

So he developed 1st City Taxi, which is a for-profit business that operates full time, but Smith runs the taxi service as nonprofit Safe Ride after 10 p.m. Friday through Saturday.

It opened for business July 1.

"We've had really, really good support," Smith said.

It wasn't Smith's first foray into sober transportation. He said he and Mitch Rautio, the owner of Ken 'N' Cork, partnered to try to use 1st City Limousine as a sober cab, but it didn't work out.

"So (Safe Ride) has been in the making for a good year," Smith said.

The Drug Free Coalition contributed to the Safe Ride initiative, which it believes is a step toward a larger environmental strategy.

Naylor-Yarger said the DFC is looking to host server's training in Hubbard and Beltrami counties to better educate servers about over-serving on alcohol.

Eventually, the DFC would like to see its counties adopt social host ordinances, under which those hosting parties are held liable for underage drinking.

"It's one part of the education campaign," she said of the Safe Ride. "We want to keep you safe."