Local bar launches shuttle service

It all started with a simple conversation.

"My wife and I and a couple of customers were talking one evening," said Lou Hafner, owner of Lawrenceville's Sportsline Bar and Grille, "and it just kind of evolved."

He's talking about the bar's new all-hours shuttle service, set to start up this weekend.

"We just decided it was a good idea," Hafner said, "and a very responsible thing to do for the community, and also for our customers."

The shuttle's hours of operation are, ostensibly, whenever its services are required - be it around lunch, dinner or late-night.

"It's going to run all the time," Hafner said. "Anytime any one of our patrons feels, either because of illness or anything else, that they need a little help with transportation, we'd be happy to do so."

Hafner said the service will operate within a five- to six-mile radius, which he says should cover most if not all of the establishment's regular clientele.

"I think you'd find that most bars and restaurants, their patronage is within five or six miles," he said.

The shuttle itself, a van emblazoned with colorful graphics and the Sportsline logo, seats seven. It even has GPS navigation, so all inebriated riders have to do is say their address, "and we'll take it from there," Hafner said.

Perhaps best of all, it's dirt cheap. A $3 service charge will be applied to riders - per address, not per person - which is mostly meant to aid in gas cost. However, one of every three dollars will be donated to Mothers Against Drunk Driving.

"You've gotta give something back," Hafner said.

The charge is chump change, especially when you consider the alternatives.

"Some of our customers spend as much as $20 to $25 for a cab ride," Hafner said, "sometimes for a very short distance. One of the things you have to understand is when they are trying to get a cab is in the peak hours. ... If you try to call a cab at 12 a.m. on a Friday night, you're not gonna be real successful."

Unfortunately, that can cause frustration, he added, which can in turn push people to try and drive on their own.

"I don't want anybody to ever leave the bar because they get frustrated," he said.

The new shuttle represents just one more measure the venerable, mom-and-pop-owned watering hole has taken in its fight to keep the community safe from drunken drivers. Hafner and his wife, (Sportsline co-owner) Judy, already station a security guard by the door to keep an eye out for who's had too much.

"We also get very, very cognizant about and hour before closing time, and we'll cut off service," Hafner said. "'Cause you don't wanna get anybody hurt. You want them to have a good time, but you don't wanna get anybody hurt. Or have them hurt someone else."

No one wants that, which is why the Hafners are already getting plenty of positive feedback on their latest endeavor.

"Our customers are absolutely ecstatic," Hafner said, "and looking very forward to the convenience. ... I wish all bars would consider it."