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Our Town with William Kelly: All-electric, luxury rideshare service may be rolling into Palm Beach

Some Palm Beach residents are no doubt familiar with the Rove rideshare service in Long Island’s Montauk, East Hampton and Sag Harbor.

The app-based business, which operates like Uber and Lyft but is free of charge, may soon hit the streets of Palm Beach.

Rove’s co-owners are scheduled to appear before the Town Council on Tuesday to discuss their interest in expanding the service onto the island. The meeting begins at 9:30 a.m. at Town Hall.

The Rove co-owners are Gianpaolo de Felice, a well-known Hamptons restaurateur, and Jack Brinkley Cook, the son of supermodel Christie Brinkley. They recently met with Councilman Lew Crampton, chairman of the council’s Business and Administration Committee, to discuss the idea.

Crampton said a Rove rideshare operation in Palm Beach would be a welcome component of the town’s initiative to ease the parking and traffic squeeze on the island. The committee, which also includes Councilwoman Bobbie Lindsay, developed a seven-point parking management plan that has been embraced by the council.

“I see this [Rove] program as a key aspect of our seven-point program,” Crampton said. “These folks have exceeded our expectations in that it is a totally free service using new vehicles and it will cover the entire town of Palm Beach. This will be great contribution to our quality of life.”

Rove would operate a “green” fleet of 10 new black Tesla Model 3 vehicles whose drivers would take residents to and from destinations from the northern tip of the island to the South End and points in between, de Felice said Wednesday.

Rove is similar to Uber except that it owns the vehicles and employs the drivers, who are screened before they are hired, de Felice said.

“We are very excited to be working in Palm Beach,” he said. “It’s very similar to the Hamptons. The clientele we have in the Hamptons is most likely the same people we would see in Palm Beach.”

The service would operate annually from Dec. 1 through April 30, beginning this year, de Felice said. Days and hours of operation aren’t yet certain but might be 10 a.m. or 11 a.m. until 8 p.m., seven days a week.

Rove would not require a financial contribution from the town, de Felice and Crampton both said. The company generates revenue by wrapping its cars in advertising from local businesses.

“We do have a sponsor willing to pay for the vehicles,” de Felice said. “We would bring the vehicles there.”

Rove was inspired into creation by the horrid summer commute between New York City and the Hamptons. Its first iteration in 2019 was an all-Mercedes Sprinter van service to and from the city. That ended in 2020, when the Covid-19 pandemic threw the brakes on the back-and-forth commute. The current business model, with an all-electric fleet of vehicles supported by luxury advertising, is in its second year of operation, de Felice said.

“We serve a lot of tourists but also people who are employed by local businesses,” he said. “Instead of parking their cars in two-hour spaces, they park in long-term [spaces] and request a ride to and from there to work.”

He said Rove is discussing with Palm Beach a possible “shadow service” in which employees of local businesses might park in a nearby lot in West Palm Beach and be transported to and from there to work destinations on the island.

Rove is already looking beyond Palm Beach, with plans to expand into Aspen later this year, de Felice said.

Rove would not be the first on-demand electric vehicle service on the island. Circuit, based in West Palm Beach, already offers a daily transportation service in Midtown, similar to Lyft and Uber but free of charge.

De Felice and his wife Gabby Karan de Felice are part of a team that operates the Tutto il Giorno restaurant group in Southampton, East Hampton and Sag Harbor.

Last month, WS Development, which manages the Royal Poinciana Plaza, announced that the Tutto il Giorno group will open Tutto Mare, a Mediterranean-style restaurant, on the plaza waterfront in late 2024. The restaurant will be part of the new Royal Poinciana Playhouse building, which is under reconstruction.

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