Our Story

So how and why did *we end up building New Zealand's incredible premium mobile bar? Well, like most good kiwi yarns, it starts with two blokes sitting in a bar, and one says to the other,

"we should build a bar, but let's make it a mobile one". There started a 15-month journey that took us through the first national full-blown Covid lockdown, many smaller lockdowns, numerous dodgy ideas, suppliers and lots of mistakes (I think the gurus call them lessons?). And like all good Kiwi DIY stories, a completely blown budget and like so many great projects that blow out, In the end, we were so far down the hole with costs there was only one thing to do, dig deeper, keep going and get her finished!

After clearing our heads, a few weeks later, my mate and I touched base to see if we were actually serious about building a "mobile bar" after all, this was a serious discussion held over several pints and two (or three..) good bottles of Aussie shiraz. Pride let neither of us back down or recant the idea (it turns out, at the time, we were both wishing the other would!). So we got underway with step one, a process of elimination that considered shipping containers, tiny houses, caravans and even an old boat. Not to mention talking to a few architects and taking some good advice and guidance along the way from a young, talented, commercial building project manager. After a couple of months of researching, we settled on what we thought was the best way to build her for the premium outcome we wanted to achieve (let's face it, if you're going to build a bar, you might as well make it the best, right?!).


After a search far and wide, we came across two slightly dodgy-looking engineers (good bastards) in a small workshop in Taranaki that appeared to have the will and the way to fabricate what we needed. As it turned out, man, we were right. These guys could build. They were left in the dark and had no idea what they were actually making until some of the last panels were being put in place on the trailer, as I paced around the inside marking areas to ensure we would have maximum service area and space for customers to enjoy their drinks I heard one of these blokes say under his breath, "Christ, it's a bar", busted. That certainly, however, raised both the excitement levels and productivity in the workshop (it's been a funny, consistent theme that when suppliers find out "it's a bar?!", both eyebrows and productivity have honestly raised simultaneously). Anyway, these guys did a great job. However, partway through the build, my mind had been nagging me for months. In my opinion, there is no such thing as a great bar that doesn't have a good deck! So we added the decks, and a couple of weeks later, I went to check on the progress of these (of course, adding the decks blew budget, again). On the next inspection to check progress, I showed up around 10 am, and one of these blokes, who used to be a baker of all things, and now fabricated heavy steel (!), was enjoying a beer on the new deck! I said, "what are you doing"? He said, "I want to be the first person to have a beer on the deck", only in New Zealand.


After laying the floor, we knew we had to have a solid frame for the premium bar top and equipment we wanted to install. However, the thing with Tiny Bar is we were always going to be restricted by the 3,500kgs we are limited to towing on the road. This meant throughout the design and project. We had to think hard about priortities on keeping it light weight and keeping it premium. We found a great welder in a small workshop in Hamilton that did both the bar frame and fitted the stainless interior bar tops. Tiny Bar spent several days and many hours with him. One night we worked till around 9 pm fitting the two sinks, and every 20 minutes past 7 pm, his wife would ring. He would just look at his phone (without answering) and grimace (everyman knows that look). I am not sure of the reception he received later that night when he got home, but I could imagine. I didn't say much when we locked up the workshop. I just looked at him knowingly in the eye, said "thanks", shook his hand and handed him a case of beer. I knew he was going to need a drink later that night…


The day we came to fit out the interior was something of a blessing in disguise. It had utterly poured down the night before, and when I opened the back door, it was flooded. I stood there with several fit-out guys shaking my head, knowing it was game over for the time being. The leak wasn't small, and it needed to head back to Taranaki for some modifications, so back she went. My two scrawny engineers found and sorted the problem, and a month or so later, she was out of the workshop and back ready for the fit-out.

Most of the interior fit-out was completed by a hardcore Waikato crew of four who worked like absolute demons over a few days to get it done. They even parked it up in the bosses backyard to do the work as Tiny Bar was too big for the workshop. When I asked for the invoice to pay the bill, "Nah mate, we just want a party", "done", I said (slightly concerned given I had seen the 'work hard' part, I assumed the 'play hard' part would be just as furious). I am waiting to pay this debt at the time of writing, but something tells me it will be a hell of a party and another great test for Tiny Bar.


One area, in particular, I knew Tiny bar had to be the best, premium and absolutely set the bar in mobile bars, was the bar! We searched long and hard to find the right guy to do this and eventually found an old retired grumpy boat builder who lived in the middle of the north island and nowhere near the sea, go figure. This is the sort of talent that no matter what you tell him or how many times, he still goes full steam off course and builds what he wants (and, of course, blows the budget, again), and we are pleased he did. He handcrafted over eight meters of stunning bar top with our brand matching charcoal black edge and then matched off the seated booth area and coffee table with the same sustainable wood, grain and finish. Old tradesman like this are hard to find and are more like artists. They are bloody hard to manage, difficult to deal with but somehow produce pretty amazing work from rough old, scarred hands.

A premium liquor glass finish on the bar top and coffee table was the final piece of the fit-out challenge. Would you believe how hard it is to find someone who is an expert at pouring and applying a 5mm coat of liquid glass to bar tops (especially inside a trailer)? We finally found him. This little Korean bloke in Auckland is another artist and genius. After 12 hours of pouring and scraping, he produced a stunning liquid glass finish on the bar top and coffee table that makes Tiny Bars bar stand out as one of the most unique and best-looking bar tops in New Zealand, bar none!


The next stop was selecting and fitting the bar equipment, and we went super-premium here with the best Italian-made gear we could find (Kiwis, by the way, don't make this equipment) as there is no point in calling yourselves a bar if you're not geared up like one was our view. We loaded Tiny Bar up with the very best equipment we could find. No expense was spared (budget blown again) to make sure not only did we look like a bar, but we could pour and serve like a massive bar. Our brilliant supplier, a typical good old family business, even called his father out of retirement to do the install and ensure we had the best possible layout for the mobile operation we have. Unfortunately, while backing the trailer in for the equipment installation, we took out one of the roof vents/spinners on the top of Tiny Bar, resulting in another delay (and more costs!) before starting the equipment install.


Branding, design and signage are critical to these projects, and these guys delivered. The design and logo was done by a long-standing supplier who I have completed many projects with, some have worked, and some have failed, but each time, despite the odd argument and jibe (both ways), he delivers great looking designs and logos (well, most of the time).  We could only get Tiny Bar to Auckland for signwriting on a Sunday afternoon. And despite having no previous relationship and not being a huge job for them, the signage guys made sure they were there to meet us and accommodate the Sunday delivery. I told you when people find "its a bar"? funny things happen…

Like all new bars, an opening party is a necessity, and we wanted to have a good bash and invite family and friends to see what had taken us so long (and cost so much)!. However, it's fair to say that many of my friends are not exactly 'premium', and most definitely, members of the family fall short here too (!). After tricking a seafront camping ground into accepting a booking as a "large black caravan", Tiny Bar rolled in, opened up the door to the delight of many campers (and friends and family) and let her hair down for her first test. Oh, what a night. Despite some early complaints around 10 pm, I think we ended up in bed around 3 am. Nearly all of the suppliers were present, and it was a great night and chance for everyone to have a drink and enjoy the outcome. We certainly set the bar high that night. I think I got to bed about 3 am and I woke up in bed the following day with one of the large Bluetooth speakers, so I'm not entirely sure what happened there…


All said and done. We are very proud of Tiny Bar and the fact we are 100% New Zealand designed and made (not to mention built-in a period which has been a challenging and forgettable couple of years on the global scene when things have been, at times, tougher and harder to achieve). When you build something new and different without a road map, there are ups and downs, and it certainly hasn't been a straight line, as you can see. It had its challenges, but it's been an awesome journey. We've driven a lot of miles, found some great New Zealand suppliers and, more importantly, met some really good people along the way. Everyone has chipped in and done a bit more than what they suppose to and helped create what I hope you find to be an awesome Tiny Bar! She's sleek, beautiful, built premium by salt of the earth kiwi companies and bloody good people. We hope you enjoy her, and we look forward to your event becoming part of our journey...


*" We" - although there is officially only one owner ("I"), the people who contributed and made Tiny Bar a reality are spread far and wide through cities and towns, and it was an inspiring kiwi team effort. New Zealand manufacturing is not about robots. It's about blood, sweat and tears from a lot of hard-working, talented people in many small workshops who deliver jobs with pride and skill. My sincere thanks to all those people (you know who you are) who bought into producing New Zealand's most premium mobile bar and making Tiny Bar a reality.