The streets of Europe, especially Italy, are alive with the hum of scooters, with riders of all ages taking advantage of these versatile little vehicles.
But they’re also buzzing with Ape Cars, manufactured by Piaggio, which makes the Vespa.
Ape (pronounced AH-pay, and which means “bee” in Italian) Cars are enhanced scooters, with a cab for the driver and a storage area – sometimes open, sometimes closed – in back.
It reaches a top speed of roughly 25 miles per hour.
Now, Milwaukee has its own Ape Car and because it’s Wisconsin, the vehicle is a mobile bar.
The Bitsy Bar – the first of its kind here, we think – is fashioned from an Ape Car imported from Barcelona by a New Jersey company that brings over these unique vehicles. It’s got four taps and can serve anything that can be kegged, say owners Joey and Sam Paschke.
“Our goal is to bring a classy and fun unique experience to all of the party goers while teaming up with local Milwaukee companies to get all of our beverages,” says Joey Paschke. “Hopefully our business can help their business and we can all grow together.
“We’ll be serving up anything in a keg! This would include beer, wine, soda, Prosecco, cocktails, cold brew coffee, juice, anything you can keg. This is the cutest tap truck and can be rented for private events whether that is birthday parties, corporate events, baby showers, backyard parties, anything.”
The Paschkes say that the truck arrived here in April and work began to convert it for use as The Bitsy Bar.
“The back bar build out was completely custom built and designed by us down to every little detail,” says Sam Paschke, “the leather seat, granite countertop, tile backsplash, tap handles, white wall tires, etc. This has a fou- tap system with lines running to the back.
“In the back of the box we have a kegerator with a complete system to serve up to four different beverages at one time.”
Although The Bitsy Bar might someday make its way to public events, the Paschkes say that for now, it’ll be focused on private functions.
“The plan is to bring a unique and fun experience to private parties,” Sam says. “This can include any backyard event, corporate events, weddings, baby showers, bridal showers, bachelor parties, etc.
“But as of now it would be limited to private parties and can be rented by hourly packages included with a server.”
The majority of uses, presumably outdoors, will be seasonal, the Paschkes say, but, because of its compact size, the Ape could move inside, too.
“The Bitsy Bar is small enough to fit through a double door and can be rolled inside,” says Joey. “This does allow us to do events during the winter, if the building allows. The Bitsy Bar is only 6 feet tall, 5 feet wide, and 9 feet long so is possible to do indoor events.”
Folks who are interested, can contact the Paschkes to set up an initial consultations to discuss the details – when, for how long, how many guests, preferred beverages, etc.
“If they would like to purchase any alcohol for the event we connect them to the right company that sells what they are looking for,” says Sam.
“The client purchases the alcoholic beverage from that company, as we are technically a ‘dry-bar hire,’ and The Bitsy Bar picks up the beverages and brings them to the party to serve to the client taking the stress of worrying about picking up all the necessary items for the beverages.”
The Paschkes bring the cups, napkins, ice, cocktail garnishes, etc. and returns any empty kegs, etc., as necessary. The Bitsy Bar can provide non-alcoholic beverages.
“We show up to your event, set up, and our top notch server serves your guests to create a memorable experience,” says Joey. “Not only does The Bitsy Bar make for a great mobile bar, it is an awesome photo opportunity for party goers or photo shoots!”
Neither Paschke has experience in food or beverage service – they work in health care and real estate – but they’ve dreamed of doing something like this for a while, says Joey.
“This has been a three-year dream of Sam’s and I just got brought along for the ride,” he says. “Three years ago Sam came across a similar Ape in the South and absolutely loved the idea and wanted to bring it to Milwaukee!
“With more and more events shifting outdoors and seeing a need for a classy unique way to serve beverages we felt there was no time like the present to make it happen.”
As you might expect, Sam is especially excited.
“This is a new adventure for both of us,” she says, “but we both have a passion for serving people and having fun doing it.”
If this one does well, you can expect to see more, too, says Joey.
"Our long term goal and dream is to have a fleet of tap trucks that are all different colors and styles to accommodate everyone’s wishes or needs," he says. "With one day being able to have a storefront for people to come and pick between a few different options."
Born in Brooklyn, N.Y., where he lived until he was 17, Bobby received his BA-Mass Communications from UWM in 1989 and has lived in Walker's Point, Bay View, Enderis Park, South Milwaukee and on the East Side.
He has published three non-fiction books in Italy – including one about an event in Milwaukee history, which was published in the U.S. in autumn 2010. Four more books, all about Milwaukee, have been published by The History Press.
With his most recent band, The Yell Leaders, Bobby released four LPs and had a songs featured in episodes of TV's "Party of Five" and "Dawson's Creek," and films in Japan, South America and the U.S. The Yell Leaders were named the best unsigned band in their region by VH-1 as part of its Rock Across America 1998 Tour. Most recently, the band contributed tracks to a UK vinyl/CD tribute to the Redskins and collaborated on a track with Italian novelist Enrico Remmert.
He's produced three installments of the "OMCD" series of local music compilations for OnMilwaukee.com and in 2007 produced a CD of Italian music and poetry.
In 2005, he was awarded the City of Asti's (Italy) Journalism Prize for his work focusing on that area. He has also won awards from the Milwaukee Press Club.
He can be heard weekly on 88Nine Radio Milwaukee talking about his "Urban Spelunking" series of stories.