Note: The "Last Call" program was discontinued in early 2010.
The longest-running safe ride program of the four efforts profiled, the “Last Call” program, is run and funded solely by local business entities in the northeastern Minnesota Iron Range cities of Virginia, Eveleth, Gilbert, and Mountain Iron. An area beer distributor learned from a colleague in Wisconsin about a safe ride program established there by Miller Brewing Company and thought a similar effort might be a positive addition to the communities served by its distributorship. The company approached local bars about pilot testing the program over the winter holidays in 2000. What began as a seasonal safe ride effort for the holiday season was so popular with customers it quickly turned into a seven-days-a-week, 365-days-per-year community service.
The Last Call program uses a local taxi company working in the Quad Cities to provide rides to patrons who have had too much to drink, operating, as the distributor put it, “Whenever the bars are open.” More than 50 percent of area bars take part in the program. Patrons simply ask bartenders at participating bars for a Last Call voucher; either the patron or the bartender can call for the cab. Rides home from the bar are provided free of charge to individuals who leave vehicles behind to be picked up at a later time. The Last Call program does not provide rides to or between bars. For fares up to $15, costs are shared 50-30-20 between the bar where the rider was last drinking, one local beer distributor, and the taxi company. If a fare exceeds $15, the bar pays the overage.
In 2009, 1,010 rides to 1,390 passengers were provided through the Last Call program in the Quad Cities. According to the beer distributor, the program is well known in the region, where the combined population of the cities it serves is just under 20,000. Early on, posters and table tents were used to create program awareness; more recently, signs in participating bars and word-of-mouth advertising are the primary means of marketing the program. The program was featured in a news segment from the ABC-TV affiliate in Duluth. (The segment is highlighted on the home page of the Minnesota Beer Wholesalers Association Web site.) The local beer distributor that began the program handles all financial details and administrative oversight of the Quad Cities Last Call program.
Norri Distributing, Inc.