Tom Siniscalchi was scrolling through his Instagram stories the week of Father’s Day when an advertisement came onto his screen. It showed an image of a lumber structure, almost looking like Lucy’s “Psychiatric help 5¢” booth from “Peanuts,” but with the letters B-A-R illuminated in yellow. “This bar is lit!” read the advertisement, with an offer to “Swipe up” to check out the website for Taverns-to-Go. Intrigued, the married father of three DMed the account for more details. By the end of the day, Siniscalchi had purchased a $2,000 bar for delivery straight to his Staten Island home.
“Within a week of ordering, they were in my backyard assembling the bar,” he explains. So far, Siniscalchi is insanely happy with it and can’t stop recommending it to others.
Ordering atypical products online these days is hardly weird, and that was even true before the pandemic — look at Casper mattresses and Away luggage, both recent sensations via social media. Like Siniscalchi, however, I was a bit surprised to receive a targeted ad for Taverns-to-Go, a New York-based online business selling prefabricated bars delivered to your backyard, shipped and assembled free of charge — specifically meant for this strange, homebound era. (Its motto: “If you can’t get to the bar, we’ll bring the bar to you.”)
That was certainly Siniscalchi’s line of thinking. A big sports fan now prevented from hitting the local pub to watch his beloved Jets, an ad hoc home bar seemed like a good temporary solution. “I’m definitely spending more time in my yard because of the bar,” he says.
Siniscalchi even had a flatscreen installed on the back wall of his 6-by-4-foot Temple Bar, one of three models the company currently offers. His neighbors come by most weekends to watch sporting events; the bar can comfortably seat four stools at a decent social distance from each other. “Visitors are super impressed once they see it for the first time,” Siniscalchi says.
The company was started just this May by three men in construction who were unable to continue their work during lockdowns. It was clearly a savvy pivot. In addition to Taverns-to-Go’s most popular model — the aforementioned Temple Bar — there’s the 8-by-5-foot Castlebar and the 10-by-5-foot Dunbar. They are priced at a fairly reasonable $2,000 to $3,000 before add-ons like the requisite bar stools, hanging wine rack, wall-mounted bottle opener, and waterproof connection box for electrical cords.
As intriguing as these bars are, it’s hard to believe we’ve reached the point where Covid-crazy, nightlife-desperate people are ordering pre-made bars to be sent to their houses, sight unseen. Sure, $2,000 is certainly doable for many people in the middle class, especially if they’ve spent the last half-year not paying for any actual bar tabs, but it’s nonetheless a good chunk of change.
As the pandemic drags on, however, as new waves hit and nightlife restrictions continue, is it possible that prefab bars might really be on the verge of becoming the next mattress in a box?
“They were very nice and put me at ease about buying it online,” Justin Perry tells me. The New England man was impressed that Tavern-to-Go’s owners — Paul Convey, Enda MacDonald, and Liam Gallagher — would actually talk to him on the phone, as most website purchases these days are strictly online transactions, caveat emptor.
Instead of coming across the bars on Instagram, however, Perry stumbled upon them via Etsy, a website typically used to buy “Mommy needs her wine” apparel, but which has become another big sales outlet for the company. “I’d never bought on Etsy before so I was nervous about it, especially something like this. It’s not like buying a T-shirt or a coffee mug,” he says.
Perry also went for the Temple Bar, to be installed at his seasonal campsite in Rhode Island. For the last five years he had been using a small, homemade pallet bar that was on its last legs. Googling for replacement options he came across Taverns-to-Go’s Etsy page, where they already show 14 sales and eight glowing, five-star reviews. (Another 75 potential customers have bars currently “in their cart” as of this writing.) Once Perry had dropped the 2,000 bucks, the New York crew was at his campsite within five days and the bar was up and ready for use within an hour or so.
“Part of [the purchase] was due to bars being closed or not being able to sit at the bar, especially once sports were going to start up,” Perry says. “I needed a place to watch the game with a beer.”
Because it has a galvanized, corrugated steel roof, Perry doesn’t have to bring his glassware, blender, crockpot, or even TV back inside his RV camper each night. He likewise expects it to hold up through the chilly fall and harsh New England winters. Even if it was a pandemic-inspired purchase, Perry is excited to see it outlive this dystopian era.
“This is the talk of the campground and a social spot where everyone gathers to hang out, watch hockey, and now football — it’s amazing,” he says.
Taverns-to-Go is far from the only prefab bar company trying to capitalize during the pandemic. WLP Pallet Creations, a Great Falls, Mont., producer of natural wood tables and benches, has likewise found an eager market for its customizable bars. “I’ve seen a steady stream of inquiries for bars since Covid began,” says proprietor William Preston.
Started just last year, the company has recently delivered bars to Florida, Massachusetts, and the Carolinas, with more currently en route to Ohio, Nevada, and California. Bars arrive in prefabricated pieces with holes already drilled so customers only need about a half hour to snap everything together. At a mere $899 starting price, they are a no-brainer for many bar-starved homebodies as we head into the winter months.
BuyfooBARS out of Candler, Fla., has been doing even better than that. Run by husband-and-wife team Marc and Renee Simon, the company has been a producer of “rustic” furniture since 2013, but bar sales have become its key focus since the pandemic began. Bars range from $500 for an unfinished, “shabby chic” counter bar to upwards of $2,000 for a walnut L-shaped outdoor/indoor model.
This unexpected spring boon in bar sales came with a little governmental assistance to boot, explains Renee. “When the stimulus checks [of $1,200 came in], our sales tripled for the month of May and bars became our front-runner product,” she says.
From April to August the company produced 20 to 30 bars per week, struggling to keep up with a constant backlog of 180 orders. The Simons even had to hire additional employees, with Marc on the road half the week hand-delivering finished products to Florida customers. By July, BuyfooBARS had passed an astonishing $1 million in sales for the year.
When Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis instituted “Phase 3” of the state’s reopening plan in late September, allowing all bars and restaurants to resume operations at full capacity, BuyfooBARS saw a slight sales impact. But home bar sales remain steady, with the company’s backlog of orders now at slightly more than 100 bars. Florida, of course, doesn’t have to really worry about brisk temperatures or snowy conditions in the near future.
As temperatures have chilled in the Northeast, Taverns-to-Go has begun focusing on clients westward, recently delivering bars to Nashville and Calabasas, Calif. The purveyor also introduced a new open-bar model that features a pergola roof — perfect for warm evenings. Despite increasing orders, the Taverns-to-Go website claims that bars will arrive at customers’ doorsteps in as little as two weeks.
Like bakers’ yeast, dried beans, jigsaw puzzles, dumbbells, and large kitchen appliances, prefab, ready-to-use bars for your backyard or rec room might be one of the few businesses that continue to thrive during the pandemic. And, though the owners of these companies feel a little bit of survivor’s guilt, they can’t help but be thrilled to finally be getting their due.
As Renee Simon noted, “In a time that has been extremely difficult for a lot of small businesses we are truly grateful to be on the opposite end of the equation.”
And, most of their customers are truly grateful to again be on the opposite side of a bar.