Distilleries hosting breakfasts to recruit ride-share drivers

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By Forrest Berkshire, Editor

Drivers for an on-demand ride service are needed, and Heaven Hill is treating potential recruits to a breakfast scheduled for Thursday, July 27.

Earlier this year, the Kentucky Distillers Association announced a partnership with the ride service Lyft in areas along the Kentucky Bourbon Trail.

But the service needs drivers based in the Nelson County area in order to keep wait times down. Drivers can earn up to $35 an hour, said Ali Edelstein, KDA’s director of social responsibility.

From 9-10:30 a.m. on July 27, representatives from KDA and Lyft will be at Heaven Hill to explain how drivers can sign up. They will also be treated to a free breakfast, distillery tour vouchers and chances to win rewards from Lyft.

Participants must be at least 21 years old to attend. Seats are limited, so RSVPs are required by emailing Edelstein at ali@kybourbon.com. Locals who are ready to drive may apply online at www.lyft.com/drivers/KYDISTILLERS and be eligible for a $350 bonus. Lyft drivers operate their own vehicles, which must meet specific standards.

“Safety of our visitors and the surrounding communities are a top priority as we expand opportunities to experience the Kentucky Bourbon Trail tour,” said Jeff Crowe, Heaven Hill general manager of visitor experiences. “A partnership with Lyft ensures safe ride options for all visitors to enjoy their experience responsibly.”

Lyft services are available in Bardstown now, but wait times can be lengthy because most drivers are based out of Louisville. On Monday at 3:06 p.m., a pick-up wasn’t available until between 3:40 and 3:50. A ride in a four-passenger car to Heaven Hill from Court Square would cost $5.78, a six-seater would cost $7.98.

Ride services such as Lyft and Uber have staked their reputations, in part, by offering on-demand rides on short notice that users order through apps on their smart phones. Those ride services have become popular in densely populated metro areas such as Louisville and Lexington, but are not generally available in smaller communities. Many of the distilleries on the Bourbon Trail are in rural areas where the service wasn’t available until the partnership with KDA.

“It made sense to us to make a push in the Bardstown area,” said Eric Gregory, president of the KDA.

Woodford Reserve is also hosting a breakfast July 24 in Versailles.

The Bourbon Trail has partnered with other more traditional ride services, such as Mint Julep Tours, R&R Limo and Central Kentucky Tours, but those companies do not offer the type of quick, spur-of-the-moment ordering that Lyft aims to meet.

Even taxi service is relatively new to the area. Bourbon City Taxi started offering taxi service in May 2014, and has partnered with The Kentucky Bourbon Festival to offer safe rides home during the weeklong festival for three years.

Mickey Hardin, a co-owner, said the company has eight cabs and charges a flat $10 rate in Bardstown. He said they also run people to and from area distilleries. While they don’t have an app like Lyft or Uber, he said they have a Facebook page with a “call” button to link them quickly to a dispatcher.