Bar-avan heading for Boston as US makes call for ‘Shebeen on wheels’

From caravan to bar-avan — it’s the traditional Irish pub on wheels that’s about to storm America.

John Walsh with his Shebeen, an authentic Irish pub on wheels.
John Walsh with his Shebeen, an authentic Irish pub on wheels.

An enterprising cabinet maker in Galway has converted a battered old caravan into an authentic Irish pub.

And such has been the reaction to John Walsh’s Shebeen-for-hire, that he’s branching into sales and is about to deliver one to Boston.

“Very early into this project, we realised that The Shebeen was going to be something very special.

“We have already received an order to ship one of our designs to America,” he says. “It will be very similar to the original Shebeen, except it will have a thatched roof, meaning it will really encapsulate that feeling of Irish tradition.

“My main aim is to get six to eight of them built next year and get them overseas, to Britain, America, Europe and the likes. It’s a unique product so it should travel well.”

John, 40, from Clarinbridge, runs Clinical Cabinets, which designs and makes laboratory, healthcare and workspace furniture.

He always longed to get involved in the pub business and spotted his chance when he couldn’t sell a 30-year-old caravan he bought to attend Electric Picnic in 2013.

He decided to convert it into a shebeen as a team-building exercise with his Clinical Cabinets staff, with a view to plonking it at the bottom of his garden.

They spent most of last year fitting the caravan with a new floor, a new slate roof, and making and installing interior furniture handcrafted in Irish oak, stained and distressed to recreate a vintage feel.

They papered the walls, hung antique pictures , and carefully selected memorabilia on the walls, installed a bar, a cooler and taps for two draft beers, and fitted a realistic electric stove.

Whitewash effect exterior walls, a bright yellow half-door, window boxes, and a high Nelly resting outside complete the effect.

John said customers watched the progress of the makeover and expressed an interest in borrowing it for events. “I knew then we were on to something.”

Since the work finished in October, the Shebeen has been at a christening, a 75th birthday party, and a IT firm’s Christmas party.

It can be hired fully stocked to be delivered anywhere in the country. It costs from €750 to hire for day, €1,500 for a weekend, and from €22,000 to buy.  

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