What happens when a former firefighter follows his dream? He converts a 1981 Dennis fire engine into a mobile bar and cafe. That’s the story of Paul Weller, who runs The Blue Light Bar & Coffee Stop in Horley.
Along with his partner, Paul began converting the fire engine in December 2019 and finished just in time for a pandemic to sweep the globe. To trade through the lockdowns, Paul pivoted to a takeaway-only service, but now you can hire his mobile watering hole for festivals, outdoor cinemas, weddings and almost any open-air gathering you can think of.
The journey from firefighter to mobile bar owner wasn’t entirely smooth. After ten years in the West Sussex fire brigade, Paul retired following a life-changing sports injury and was helped through his physical and mental recovery by The Fire Fighter’s Charity.
He then worked at Gatwick airport for several years before finally taking a leap of faith and opening his own business.
At first, the switch was daunting. Any entrepreneur will tell you that setting up shop by yourself requires heaps of time, energy and commitment, but Paul and his partner have really gotten into the swing of things after embracing the challenge.
Although the bar is often on the road, it also has a home at Simon’s Free Range Egg Farm in Horley, where you can visit and grab a drink.
Discussing his reasons for doing what he does, Paul says: “Giving back to the emergency service community is a primary motivator. We regularly have firefighters, the police and ambulance crew stopping by in during their shifts to take a break, and I like to think it’s a welcoming and safe place for them to do so.”
“We started a ‘Got your back’ noticeboard where the community can donate hot drink tokens to emergency service workers on duty. Every time a token gets used it reminds me why we started this venture in the first place.”
Repaying the support he received from The Fire Fighter’s Charity is another driver for Paul. As well as donating a percentage of profits, he’s continually thinking of new and creative ways of fundraising.
The icing on the cake is the location. Paul loves the Horley area and believes the community grew together throughout the pandemic, with neighbours getting to know each other better and becoming good friends.
And they’ve all got a fun and friendly place to go for a hot drink or refreshing beverage in a unique setting that’s a real local talking point.
The Blue Light Bar & Coffee Stop