If you were reading about The Wild Rover Pub in Canada and thinking, “I wish there was something similar close to home,” you’re in luck – The Shebeen on Wheels has been in operation out of Clarinbridge, Co Galway since 2014.
Catering to smaller, private gatherings (think DIY weddings, christenings and 50th birthday parties), owner and builder John Walsh says this is the fun half of his two businesses.
“My main business is providing medical furnishings, which is a bit more straightforward,” he laughs. “The Shebeen on Wheels became something different for a Friday afternoon – and we all get a bit of a kick out of it.”
It all started when John wanted to build a small pub for himself. He was originally designing it into a shipping container, but says the design wasn’t hitting the right marks for an Irish pub, with its straight edges and industrial feel.
Plans changed when he purchased a small camper van to take to the Electric Picnic music festival with a friend.
“When we came back from Electric Picnic, the caravan was packed up for a few months,” John explains.
“After a while, I said, ‘Maybe we’ll knock the shipping container on the head and convert the camper van’.
“It made more sense – after the design work, it looked like a miniature cottage – especially once I photoshopped the roof on. It looked quite well!”
While his first mobile pub was being built, customers visiting his other business would admire the work. Eventually, after it was finished, people started asking if it was available to rent for parties.
“It turned into a business – we were doing all the work ourselves,” he explains.
“Customers wanted to start renting it out, so we started a Facebook account and the whole thing took off really quickly.
“The local media picked it up and then The Late Late Show had us on in February 2015 – we were only a few months old at the time. One of the reporters rang us and I thought it was a wind-up!”
Now, John and his team have three mobile pubs available for rent. Their original is called The Burren. Then, there’s The Connemara, which features a thatched roof.
Their most recent addition to the mobile pub family was The Hay Shed, which offers more of a barn-party feel to events.
“We actually shipped The Connemara to Boston for St Patrick’s Day in 2016,” John recalls.
“We shipped it over and I spent four weeks over there. We were in the Boston parade and the Newport parade – it only came back late last year. We’ll possibly bring it back [to America] again when things get better.”
Rentals start at €600 per day. The mobile pubs come equipped with a cooler, two taps and a full draught system (kegs of beer can also be included on request), a stove and a sound system.
Liquor licenses are not required for private events, assuming guests are not being charged for drinks (otherwise a relevant license is required).
This means, for example, a small wedding with an open bar will not require a license. John is hopeful for a busy season once things gradually start opening up again.
“We cater anything from private to corporate events, small weddings or product launches,” he says.
“We think smaller weddings and parties will be more popular, when things open up again, in light of the pandemic.”