Defying a Ban

Uber workaround


In 2015 the government of Portsmouth, New Hampshire, effectively outlawed the ride-booking app Uber by enacting requirements that the company show proof of commercial insurance and jump through other legal hoops. Uber petitioned for changes to the law, but the City Council voted them down in December.

The Portsmouth taxi industry seized the opportunity and began aggressively reporting rogue Uber drivers to authorities. One such target was 29-year-old Christopher David, who was threatened by an area bouncer—who just so happened to also work part-time as a cab driver—with heavy fines if he continued to operate. After David secretly recorded the conversation and posted it online, the cabbie-cum-bouncer filed a complaint and a warrant for David's arrest on wiretapping charges was issued.

David responded by creating an alternative ride-booking service, which he's calling Arcade City. "To the city of Portsmouth, I opt out of your system," he wrote online. Since specialty vehicles are exempt from many local rules, his app will offer rides from "limousines" that he says qualify as such because they're equipped with "fun games." As important, the service will operate by donation only.

David says he knows that business model makes him vulnerable to riders who might choose to take advantage of the option to ride for free, but he thinks it's worth the risk if it frees him and his drivers from Portsmouth's regulatory clutches.