The Shebeen Rolls into New England
It wasn’t easy getting a fully-functional, mobile Irish pub through U.S. Customs, but the Boston area’s very own Shebeen arrived earlier this month and is now available for parades, festivals, and private events.
“Customs had it for eight days, because they couldn’t put it under any specific category: It wasn’t classed as a food truck, it wasn’t classed as a trailer. The fact that it’s literally a house on wheels confused everybody,” says John Walsh, a Galway, Ireland-based cabinetmaker who founded the Shebeen in his hometown last year.
The 15-foot Connemara model, with a faux-thatched roof, an Irish oak bar, tweed-wrapped benches, decorative books and antique, framed photos, and a vintage High Nelly bicycle parked in front, was custom-built and decorated by Walsh and his employees at Clinical Cabinets in Galway. It shipped, fully assembled, from Dublin to Liverpool, then to Port Elizabeth, New Jersey, via cargo ship.
The Connemara Shebeen is the second bespoke, tiny Irish pub Walsh has built. The original model, which is for hire in Ireland, is a retrofitted caravan Walsh originally bought to attend a music festival. The Connemara’s chassis and frame were custom-built, Walsh says.
“I’m a huge fan of old, Irish bars,” he says. His brother co-owns the craft Galway Bay Brewery and a few pubs in Ireland. “Any tourist that comes to Ireland and experiences the old, Irish pubs—it’s cozy, a little bit romantic, you don’t have TVs going and loud music and all of that. It’s a nice place to sit down and chat and tell a story.”
On a rainy day this week, Walsh pours a sample of his brother’s Galway Bay Full Sail IPA and takes a seat next to an electric stove, which kicks off ample heat inside the tiny lounge. A portable generator outside is powering the wall sconces and the heater, and there are electrical outlets if someone wanted to bring in an electric kettle or other small appliances.
There are two draft lines. The Shebeen can supply a double cooler for kegs and an icebox to chill bottles and cans, and there’s space under the bar for a kegerator, if a future owner wanted one installed. Guests supply their own alcohol. There’s also a hand pump sink.
During a five-week stay with cousins in North Attleboro, Walsh and the Shebeen have several media engagements, public events to attend, and even a meeting with a caterer who is interested in buying a fleet of Shebeens for the company. Walsh has stocked the pub with a few bombers of Galway Bay, and cases of Murphy’s and Guinness Irish stouts for guests.
So far, in New England, the Connemara Shebeen has rolled in the Newport, Rhode Island, St. Patrick’s Day Parade, and this weekend, look for it during South Boston’s procession. Walsh also plans to bring it Gaelic Athletic Association grounds at the Irish Cultural Center in Canton next week, and he may take it on a tour of New York City, too, before he leaves at the end of the month, he says.
The Connemara Shebeen will remain in North Attleboro after Walsh returns to Ireland, as a showpiece for interested parties to check out, and to rent. Currently, the Shebeen will travel within four hours of Boston, and Walsh aims to have five to seven Shebeens around the U.S. by the end of 2016 so there will always be one to rent within five hours, he says.
The Shebeen has been popular during weddings in his native country; it can seat up to 10 people inside comfortably, and it has two hatch windows that give people sitting outside the pub access to the beer flowing inside. It’s also great for milestone birthdays, and corporate events, Walsh says.
“The idea is to promote the Shebeen in the hope of taking orders, if someone wants to purchase” their own, Walsh says.
The Connemara took about 90 days to manufacture, and Walsh believes future Shebeens can be turned around in 12 weeks, as he and his employees have an exact design in place. He also believes it will be easier to get them through Customs in the future.
“It took off so well in Ireland that the most natural route would be to come to the States, with the amount of Irish people and ex-pats who are living here,” Walsh says.
Judging by the interest it stirred up while parked behind a nondescript office building in Newton this week, the Shebeen is going to be well-received here, too.
The Shebeen, $1,750 for 24-hour rental, delivery $150-$250, units start at $65,000 for purchase, theshebeen.com.
Related: Read Madeline Bilis’ Home & Property report: Drinking by Design: The Shebeen.