At a time when people would rather stay home than spend money, bars and restaurants have to get creative to draw the crowds. One bar near Columbia University, on Manhattan's Upper West Side, has hit upon a novel inducement to draw revelers from trendier parts of town: It will pay for your transportation.

If you take a yellow taxi to the Village Pourhouse and show your receipt, the bar will start you a bar tab equal to what you paid as a fare, up to $25. Simple as that. Readers of the Feedbag blog have tried it, and it works. The idea was launched in November, and it helped get the bar, which is in a pleasant but unfashionable part of town, make it through the hard economic winter and collect a new batch of regulars.

I think it's a great idea, but it would be even better in a city where people have to drive to get around and the ride home was covered. How many nights have you called an end to because you knew you had to drive home? How much more would you have spent if you knew the ride back was taken care of, gratis?

You'll have a lot more people willing to say "just one more" and stick around a long while, and I'm willing to bet than in lots of cases, even after it pays for your safe ride home, the bar will have made out with a profit. As long as there's a restricted radius (no taking a taxi sixty miles away), this good idea wouldn't be just a good inducement to purchase food and drink without fear, but also a safety service, since it keeps people out from behind the wheel.

Bartenders just have to make sure not to take advantage of the captive market and serve customers until they can't stand, but then again, in many places it's already illegal to serve a customer who's clearly wasted.

I know the media is all doom and gloom about the economy, but you have to admit that out of hard times come some pretty good ideas.

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