Tour buses drive residents, businesses into growing market

Boozy buses shuttle around New Kent to bring residents to a wide variety of brewery, cidery and distillery hot spots.

Without access to transportation services such as Uber or Lyft, attractions such as alcohol tours are often unavailable to New Kent residents. Enter New Kent Tours, the brainchild of four friends who created the business to provide door-to-door access for those seeking to explore the drinking scenes in New Kent, Williamsburg and Richmond.

Carol Boyle Upton, a New Kent resident who lives near the border of James City County, took the bus to Scott’s Addition in Richmond to meet up with her kids and explore the brewery scene. Boyle Upton said New Kent Tours picked her up at her house and delivered great service.

“I would use it for both beer and wine simply because we don’t have Uber out here so what a great way to get the group of your neighbors to go, hang out, hop on the bus and go,” Boyle Upton said.

Connecting residents to similar attractions is beneficial for businesses because individuals are more likely to visit an area if there are more destinations to explore. Matthew Smolnik, director of economic development for New Kent County, said New Kent Tours is a fresh idea emerging while the brewery market is hot, and it provides a great opportunity for businesses to grow their consumer base.

“We are perfectly centered between some big markets for this type of entertainment venue, tourism, transportation. This is a good way to connect all those businesses together. It’s a delicate balance. There’s no competition versus actually being a benefit,” Smolnik said.

New Kent is the site of three wineries with a fourth expected to open this summer. Wine tours include stops at New Kent Winery, Saude Creek Vineyards, Gauthier Vineyard as well as The Williamsburg Winery in James City County.

New Kent Winery Co-Owner Joe Dombroski said New Kent Tours is a great local business model that helps to expand the community’s interest in nearby, family-owned attractions. An advantage of visiting locations with New Kent Tours is the experience can be more intimate than for an average, walk-in visitor.

“At New Kent Winery, they will get a guided tour with, if not one of the owners, one of the management at the winery, so it’ll be special. They’ll get a little bit better tour than just the normal public that walks in.”

Brewers Association’s 2018 report ranked Virginia as the 12th largest craft brewery state. While Richmond has earned recognition for its extensive brewery scene, Williamsburg is no stranger to beers, wines or spirits -- it served as the site for the first imported beer in 1607. Beer lovers can also explore favorites on tours to Hardywood Park Craft Brewery and Stone Brewing Company in Richmond, Alewerks Brewing Company in Williamsburg and others.

Standard rides run weekends and include 3-5 stops in New Kent, Scott’s Addition, Williamsburg or Shockoe and South Richmond for $29 per passenger. Fare includes water and snacks aboard the bus.

For dry or underage residents, the business can serve as a shuttle service to go anywhere between Richmond and Williamsburg. The 14-passenger buses – there are two -- can be rented for transportation to concerts, sporting events, festivals or airports. Tours soon will be scheduled for Colonial Downs and Rosie’s Gaming Emporium for historic betting.

Kate Ferris, Director of Public Relations and Co-Owner of New Kent Tours, said the business hopes to expand and cover a wider area of Virginia to fill the regional void for both practical transportation and a means to access fun activities.

“We would like to be a whole regional tour service,” Ferris said. “We realized most of New Kent doesn’t use Uber or taxis -- people won’t come that far. We can fill that niche.”

Want to know more?

For information on scheduling a ride, tours can be set up at newkenttours.com or by phone at (804) 506-0130.

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