Bar Buddies

Missy Larrabee stands next to the Bar Buddies Lodi van in 2016. The service aims to provide safe rides between bars, homes and parties.

It’s been one year since I introduced Bar Buddies Lodi to everyone in the Community Voice and I’d love to give you an update on our success.

First, a little background: Bar Buddies Lodi is a Non-Profit safe ride program that originated in the Sauk Prairie area and has since expanded to Baraboo, Reedsburg, Lodi and the River Valley Area. Together we work to provide a safe alternative to drinking and driving for the entire Sauk County and sections of Columbia/Dane County. The program started in the Lodi area in October of 2016 and serviced mostly the City of Lodi residents. However, as our fleet grew, we were able to expand our radius to include Town of Lodi (Okee/Harmony Grove), Town of West Point and Town of Dane residents. We stay actively involved in the community by making ourselves available during local events, even if they are outside of our normal operating hours.

In order for our program to continue to succeed, we do collect a small fee ($5 per person) from our patrons when they want to go from home to bar or bar to bar. Your ride home, (as long as you are within our 10-mile radius) is always free! We also offer our services for private events such as weddings, Brewer/Packer trips, private parties etc. We do receive a small reimbursement from the Dane and Columbia County Tavern Leagues through their safe ride funds for every ride home we give from a Tavern League establishment (between $100-$400 monthly).

We also collect on a yearly DOT Grant which decreases by 10% each year. This grant helps us cover gas, maintenance and advertising. All additional funds are raised through our various fundraising efforts and donations. A full night of driving can bring in $5 or $150 depending on how busy we are.

To give you an idea on how BBL has impacted the Lodi community, when we started in October of 2016, we provided 342 rides for 515 patrons through the end of the year. In 2017, we provided 2,072 rides to 4,182 patrons. In 2018 we provided 2,621 rides to 5,060 patrons. We are well on our way to beating that again for 2019! “It’s amazing how many people I have given rides to who are not from our community or are out of state. They had never heard of Bar Buddies and think it’s the best program they have ever heard of. They also can’t believe how little we charge!” said BBL Driver Jill Roessler.

We have seen an increase in interest in our program and therefore that leads to our vans running longer and traveling farther. This year our vehicle maintenance expenditures have doubled, especially on our large 14 passenger van. We rely on this van for private parties and it is the most expensive van in our fleet. We also own two 9 passenger vans, a 2011 Kia Sedona and a recently purchased 2006 Honda Odyssey.

We have been operating for three years and growing stronger every year. Every aspect of BBL is volunteer based. We have about eight regular drivers with a number of fill-in drivers, however, we could always use more. You do have to be 26 years old and have a clean driving record for the past 3 years.

Our hours of operation are Thursday night from 6:00 p.m. – 12:30 a.m. and Friday and Saturday night from 6:00 p.m. – 3:00 a.m. We have two separate driver shifts each evening and do utilize someone for dispatching on busier evenings. If you can’t drive, please don’t let that deter you! We can always use dispatchers and people to help with fundraising.

Our group of drivers put in long hours driving and fundraising. Throughout the year we hold meat raffles, brat stands, the dunk tank at Susie the Duck Day, a golf outing, an annual garage sale and our 3rd annual Bar Buddies Bonanza. We also started a King of Diamonds at KD’s Bar and Grill every Tuesday night from 5-7:00 p.m. It only costs $1 a chance. If your ticket is drawn, you win an automatic $20 and then you can flip a card over and if you get the King of Diamonds, you win half the pot. As I’m writing this, we are currently over $2,000.

This year the Bar Buddies Bonanza will be held Saturday, Nov. 16 at the Waddle Inn. Raffles, food and fun starts at 4:00 p.m. with the 3 Souls Band performing from 5-8:00 p.m.

Please join us in supporting BBL. Help us keep, what I believe, has become one of the most important programs that keep the members of our community safe.

Financial contributions can be earmarked for Bar Buddies Lodi and left at Associated Bank. Or, you can mail any contributions to Bar Buddies Lodi, PO Box 223, Lodi, WI 53555. A tax receipt can be provided upon request.

Like us on Facebook at Bar Buddies Lodi!

Thank you again to all of you who have used Bar Buddies and who have been most generous with contributions! If you’d like to get more involved, let us know!

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