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Meet Smash Palace, the Bus Bar Driving Christchurch’s Hospo Revolution

More than just a booze bus, Smash Palace is a temporary bar bringing good spirits to town.

By Lauren Vadnjal
August 27, 2014
By Lauren Vadnjal
August 27, 2014

This article is part of our series on the diverse highlights of NZ's Canterbury region, from city to snow. To book your Christchurch trip, visit the 100% Pure New Zealand website.

Serving beer out of a bus sounds like a next-level food truck about to hit the streets of Melbourne (and, honestly, a great business idea, liquor licensing laws aside), but Smash Palace is a bit more complicated than that. The bus doesn't move per se — it mostly stays parked in a vacant lot — but, as is the beauty of having a bar on wheels, it can be moved at any time. Welcome to Christchurch: where bars are mobile and most things are temporary.

"We ... knew that a lot of Christchurch was, and still is, empty land," says Smash Palace owner Johnny Moore. "So we wanted to find a way to occupy that empty land."

Like all good purchases, the bus was bought late one night on the internet. Finding a place to put it wasn't quite so easy. The site that was eventually found — an empty block on a busy corner of the CBD border — was disused.

The bus bar forms the centrepiece of the lot, serving beer and burgers, with the addition of mulled wine and hot water bottles over winter. Circus-like coloured lights hang around the outdoor tables and undercover areas, making it more like a beer garden or a market than a booze bus.

Originally designed to be temporary and provide Christchurch with a pub-like place to meet, drink and start conversations, Smash Palace has now been open for just over two years. People just really bought into the concept and what it gave to the community, says Johnny. "I think it’s the spirit of the place, making do with what you’ve got."

As is the transitory nature of Christchurch at the moment, pop-up bars, shops and institutions make up a large percentage of the city. It's an exciting time for small business owners and those wanting to start something in Christchurch. "Anyone who's here wants to be here," says Johnny. "For younger people it's the land of opportunity. Whatever you can dream can happen at the moment."

Published on August 27, 2014 by Lauren Vadnjal

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