Imagine this. You’re at an outdoor gig, gagging for a drink, thinking about nice summery things like VW camper vans, when you look round and see one converted into a cool cocktail bar. No, you’re not hallucinating – it’s a real Bus and yes it’s really selling cocktails. We got to talk to Jonathan Gomma from a cool new enterprise called BeetleJuice…
Jonathan and his brother Jules started BeetleJuice at the end of 2012 and got another friend on board shortly after. “At the time we all had good jobs in the City running clubs, events and sales but we decided we wanted to do something ourselves,” recalled Jonny. “We moved back to Surrey and decided to create something unique and take the party to the people…”
Initially they wanted to convert a retro ‘50s style Airstream caravan but these were difficult to come by so they focused on a classic VW Bay window Bus instead. “One day we looked out the window at our campervan on the drive and thought, let’s make that into a bar!”
Their first bus (Gracie) was an Australian import which they refurbished using VW Heritage panels and electrics. “We managed to do most of the work ourselves, but when we felt out of depth, we’d give Grant a call from Beetle Link.”
As for the actual conversion into a bar, expertise from Jonny’s brother Jules quickly came in handy. “We converted the van ourselves. Jules is quite hands on and he’s always had a big interest in cars. With basic skills he managed to structurally support areas of the van inside by welding in a square steel section. Once this had been done we cut off the roof, (scary) then chopped out the side (even more scary). The side of the bus is also reinforced and hinged to enable it to open and close and we replaced the roof with a much older full length elevating roof to give the van the iconic look we were after, and to allow us to serve inside. Using the bar knowledge we have we were able to get all the necessary equipment into the limited space available. It’s amazing what you can get in there – including the three of us!”
Business got off to a roaring start and after a totally mental first year they decided to invest in another camper which started as a bread van from Greece. They picked up another bus just before Christmas which will be ready for the season ahead, with the van expected to travel the length and breadth of the country attending weddings, festivals and private parties.
It all sounds like a massive hoot and predictably there’s been loads of laughs along the way. “We’ve certainly had a lot of great gigs and events but I’d say one of our best was doing Queen drummer Roger Taylor’s birthday party. We got to meet a great bunch of people who certainly knew how to drink and party hard. Guitarist Jeff Beck turned up along with Martin Chambers, the drummer from the Pretenders, and they all had a sing along in our bar. It was pretty surreal.”
All bar none, this has to be one of the coolest cocktail lounges out there. But what about ideas for Dub-themed cocktails? How about ‘Long, Slow, Comfortable Crew up Against a Wall’ , or ‘Sex on the Beach Buggy’ or ‘Westfalia Joker’. Come on, there must be some more…