Scotty Lulu, owner of Scotty V.I.P. Cab Service, has always been passionate about cars. After moving to Tucson from Brooklyn in 1997, he applied his passion to his occupations, which included working at car dealerships and a five-year stint working for Allstate Cab. Eventually, he decided to start his own cab company, and his Chevrolet Suburban—complete with booming speakers, a flat-screen TV displaying party-ready music videos, and lots of space—has become a hit with UA students looking for a festive but safe ride when out partying. However, Lulu has some concerns about driving a cab in a broke city, and being an ethnic-looking driver in the era of SB 1070.
Have you always lived in Tucson?
No, I grew up in New York, in Brooklyn. I moved out here in 1997. My family opened a restaurant out here around 1980—it's closed now, though—and my brother went to the University of Arizona that same year, so it made sense for me to eventually make my way out here. New York is too cold.
How and when did you start your cab service?
I first got into the cab service in 2002 with Allstate Cab. I really liked it, because I was friendly with the customers. I worked with Allstate for about five years. After a while, I had so many regular customers that I just decided to start my own cab company, which I did with Scotty V.I.P. Cab Service in 2007. It was easy for me to get my business going, because I've always treated my clients like friends, which makes them more willing to go to me for their rides.
How have you managed to make such a name for your company, especially among the college crowd?
Like I said, the key is treating clients as if they were my friends. There are no barriers between me and the clients. I really love working the University of Arizona campus. College kids appreciate cab services like no others. So many students, girls and guys, all depend on me for safe rides when they are out having a good time.
How many cars do you currently have working? Do you hope to expand?
Of course I hope to expand. Right now, I only have two cars working, even though I used to have three. The third was crashed by a former employee of mine, and there just wasn't enough money to replace it. The budget in Tucson is extremely low. We lost between 40 to 50 percent of our business in the last year alone.
Your car seems like it'd be fairly expensive to run.
Yeah, it's pretty expensive, but maybe less so than people would think. Because it's an SUV, the gas prices are terrible, but the sound system and television set: Those were donated by friends. Gas is the main thing.
You work with your younger brother. Is it nice working with family, or does it cause stress?
It is nice to work with family, and my brother Steve and I are close. I do worry about him, though. With the insane amount of crime in this city, I do get nervous when he's out there driving.
What is your ethnicity? Are you concerned about SB 1070?
My family is from (the country of) Georgia, and though we are not Hispanic, I don't look white, and I am a little worried about the bill. I've already been pulled over before by immigration, and I know that I'll probably be pulled over more. Our Constitution says this is a free country. I went to school and college here, and I know I might be facing harassment with this bill, which isn't right. The Constitution is being tweaked. I've been hassled by the cops long before this bill was even talked about. One night, I was driving a group of college girls back to their apartment. ... I was pulled over, and of course, I asked the cop, "What's the problem, officer?" To which he replied, "License and registration, please." I then asked again what I had done wrong, and that's when he told me I'd better give him my license and registration, or he was going to rip me out my window. I couldn't believe it. I run a valuable service, and I shouldn't be treated like that.
What are some of the common misconceptions about being a cab driver?
Well, the biggest one is people always assume we know all the seedier parts of town. People think I know all the strippers. People think I know all of the places to score drugs or pick up prostitutes, and I don't. My job is to get people around safely, not to assist them in getting drugs or hookers.