Michael O’Donoughue spent months transforming an old horsebox into a bespoke bar on wheels, The Reserve, realising his dream of owning a business. His idea is to bring a touch of luxury into people’s gardens, their local pubs and even their weddings.
“The big dream is to open my own bar,” Michael told the Yorkshire Evening Post. “I’ve not got the initial investment I need just yet, so I wanted to find a way to bring my style and my idea to everybody.
“Going to a flashy, posh place can be quite intimidating for people. I wanted to give you something flash and high-end in the comfort of your own house.”
Michael has worked front-of-house since he was 14, landing his first bar job at Governor's Casino in Wellington Street as soon as he was old enough to pour a pint. He went on to work for Harvey Nichols in Leeds, before he was offered the chance to work at the department store’s flagship restaurant, OXO Tower, in London.
Next came a stint at the original SOHO House in London’s Greek Street, where Michael served the Golden Globes ceremony, before he moved to the Savoy Hotel. When the hotel’s head of mixology left to set up their own bar, Michael followed him.
“I’ve got a passion for hospitality,” Michael said: “I’ve done it for so long and I love it now as much as I ever have, it really drives me. I’ve got the hospitality bug. It can be a very grinding industry, but I love it. It’s my thing.”
Michael relocated back to Leeds last year and was one of the bar managers to open the Ivy Asia, before he put the wheels in motion on his mobile bar. Launched in June, Michael is the face of the business while his girlfriend, Jess Chambers, is in charge of the back-of-house operation. Two of Michael’s friends who work as bartenders.
Michael said: “We believe that The Reserve cocktail bar offers the true essence of what a great bar is. It’s great drinks, but with even better company.
“My true belief in hospitality is that you can make great drinks, but the most important thing is how you feel when you come into a bar - and how you feel when you’ve left. It’s turning service into memories. It’s more than just going in for a drink, it’s a memorable experience.”
Michael redesigns The Reserve’s menu for each event they’re booked for, crafting bespoke cocktails to match preferred styles and flavour profiles. He hopes to break into corporate events and weddings next, before opening a bricks-and-mortar bar in a couple of years.
“I love that I get to meet so many different kinds of people,” Michael added. “One day I’m at Ilkley Brewery serving cocktails to big burly farmers, and the next I’m in the city centre serving to hospitality staff.
“It was great to see them trying our style and our vision. I love the diversity of people we get to share moments with.”