CLEVELAND — As Cleveland prepares to host the NFL Draft and thousands of visitors downtown, the city, like others across the country, face a shortage of rideshare drivers.
It's something bar owners like Sam McNulty has noticed as customers try to find rides home from his Ohio City bars and restaurants.
"They're on their phones calling a Lyft at the end of the night and what used to happen in three to five minutes, now it's more like 15 to 30 minutes," said McNulty, owner of Market Garden, Nano Brew, and Bar Centro.
Social media sites like Facebook and Reddit have comments from people saying they waited up to an hour for rides, and in some cases couldn't find a rideshare at all.
"It's all over the country," said Chris Gerace, a contributor to The Rideshare Guy website. "It's not just Cleveland-area, it's everywhere right now."
Gerace said it's a case of supply and demand.
As pandemic restrictions begin to lift, more people have headed out to bars, sporting events, and restaurants.
But, he said, despite companies like Uber and Lyft offering incentives, drivers have been slow to log back on.
"It probably will not be something that will be taken care of in the next few weeks," said Gerace. "They're looking at something that is going to be several months until it gets back to an equilibrium between supply and demand and it's not something that is probably going to be solved by the draft."
McNulty said he's already getting questions from visitors planning to come to Cleveland for the draft.
"They're staying downtown and they want to come to all the action in Ohio City," said McNulty, "and they're saying they're hearing that it's very difficult to catch a Lyft across the bridge."
McNulty hopes visitors take advantage of public transportation or the short walk from downtown, while also hoping rideshare drivers see the chance to cash in on crowds and return to the roads, delivering the boost in business bars thirst for.
"I'll probably walk over there and show them the way," said McNulty. "I'll point this way to Ohio City."
In response to questions about Uber's plan to increase drivers in Cleveland, company spokesman Robert Kellman said, "As more people are vaccinated, demand from customers has increased. We’re working to bring more drivers and delivery people onto the road,"
In a statement, a Lyft spokesperson said, "We’re seeing big increases in demand for rides, as vaccines roll out and people get ready to start moving again. We’re working to meet demand, including providing incentives to drivers, who are busier and earning more than they were even before the pandemic."
A spokesperson for Destination Cleveland said, "Destination Cleveland has been regularly educating and updating our industry partners on Draft-related developments over the past few months. In talking with Destination Cleveland’s industry relations team and our event partners, outreach has been made to transportation providers about the influx of visitors. We’re hopeful that we’ll see an increase in rideshare drivers throughout Downtown during the event.”