Flint, MI — Sitting down with Denise Morgan, owner of newly-launched Morgan’s Trolley Pub, it’s clear she has the personality for a hospitality-driven business.
That is, if you can get her to sit down.
The Flint native — who prefers to meet over tequila rather than coffee — owns a trucking company and rental properties alongside her new peddle pub business. Her many pursuits keep her busy, she said, but that’s just how she likes it.
“I don’t think I could work for somebody,” Morgan said from a booth at a neighborhood bar on the city’s south side. “Even as a young teenager, I said, ‘I went to hair school. Let me do hair. I can be my own boss.’”
She laughed recalling the only time she hadn’t worked for herself in the last 35 years: a two-day stint at a Taco Bell while in high school.
“Some of my friends said ‘Whatchu doin’ working here? Whatchu doin’ with a job?’ So they must have seen something in me that I didn’t see in myself,” she recalled.
So, it only made sense to Morgan that after going from stylist to salon owner, “the thrill of accomplishing something” pushed her to start other businesses. Now, she’s the owner of Flint’s first peddle pub.
Morgan said she first considered starting a peddle pub, basically an open-air bar top on wheels, a little over a year ago.
“I seen somebody downtown…last year around Bikes on the Bricks, and they had one. But I didn’t understand why they couldn’t operate fully,” she explained.
Morgan later learned that Flint’s Code of Ordinances didn’t include provisions for peddle pubs, such as a definition for “commercial quadricycles” or regulations around on-board alcohol consumption or operating hours and locations.
But those necessary ordinance amendments were set to come before Flint City Council, so she decided to advocate for them while her custom trolley was built.
Months passed between the amendments’ introduction in February 2023 to her pub being ready, but the ordinance changes did not come back up before city council.
Undeterred, Morgan said she instead set to work contacting Flint police to learn how she could legally operate in the meantime.
“I did my homework,” Morgan said. “I sent them a video of my trolley pub and there was, like I said, seatbelts, brake lights, flashers, horn, backup camera. So, it’s street legal.”
She said the police were supportive of her pub’s operation — as long as alcohol bottles weren’t brought or poured onboard — while the ordinance amendments worked their way back onto a city council agenda. So, she started offering modified peddle pub experiences in August 2023, allowing guests to ride but not bring their own liquor, wine or beer with them.
Flint Police Detective and spokesperson Tyrone Booth did not respond to Flint Beat’s request for confirmation of Morgan’s claim by press time.
Flint City Council approved peddle pub-friendly ordinance amendments at its meeting on Sept. 25.
The amendments take effect on Oct. 26, though City of Flint Communciations Director Caitie O’Neill cautioned that there are still licensing and permitting details the city attorney’s office is in the process of working out.
Morgan said the possibility of allowing guests to bring their own alcohol will be “awesome” but it won’t change her relationship with the businesses that have supported her in the meantime.
Morgan called Tenacity Brewery owner Robb Klaty “the best” given that he’d immediately okayed her use of the brewery’s parking lot for the trolley’s start and end location, despite her cold-calling him to ask.
Klaty told Flint Beat that Morgan’s business was “an easy thing to support” when he got her call, and now that he’s watched people peddling through the city’s center, the trolley seems to “add a bit of energy downtown” that he thinks Flint “could use.”
Morgan also noted she’s received support from Rodney Ott, owner of The Loft, where she’s a regular, and praised Lottie Reid, proprietor of storied members club, Golden Leaf, at the south end of the trolley’s suggested route.
“I appreciate them supporting me,” she said.
When asked about providing competition to those same businesses, Morgan acknowledged that her trolley could seem like it’s competing with local brick-and-mortars, but that’s not really the case.
“There’s no competition,” she said. “Because I’m bringing patrons. Even if — now that they can bring their own liquor, wine, on there — we’re still gonna stop at bars. They still want to stand up and dance.”
For his part, Klaty agreed, noting that a “rising tide lifts all boats.”
“Yeah, people might buy a beer somewhere else,” he said. “But if there’s more people, I think everyone wins.”
Morgan added that her business is not permitted to sell alcohol, so she won’t directly compete with bar owners. Plus, she anticipates her guests will still want to stop at multiple spaces to top off their drinks or check out a place they haven’t been before.
After all, that was her goal in starting Flint’s first peddle pub business in the first place.
“I wanted to bring something new to Flint,” she said. “I am invested into my city.”
Morgan’s Trolley Pub operates Wednesday through Sunday, starting and ending at Tenacity Brewing. Trips last one hour and 45 minutes and can be booked for eight to 14 guests. The last trip departs at 9 p.m. as the new city ordinance requires operations to cease by 11 p.m.