Bali Island is the main tourist destination for domestic and foreign tourists. Since the pandemic, the total number of tourists has dipped around 31.9% as compared to 2019. Worse, many workers in the tourism sector have been laid off by their companies due to loss in revenue.
Recently, I flew to Bali Island to meet Pande Made Sudarsana (37) and learnt more about how he has managed to use his passion to pivot in such difficult times. With a passion for music and Vespa (an Italian brand of scooter), he had worked together with his cousin, a former bartender, to create a VesBar selling non-alcoholic drinks.
Leo Galuh (LG): Could you tell us what VesBar is and how that idea came up?
Pande Made Sudarsana (PS): VesBar is a combination of a Vespa and a bar. I built this with my cousin, Putu Yukti Prayoga in July 2020 as a response for survival during the pandemic. The Vespa was somewhat of a hobby for me that turned into a passion. The one I have now – “1977’s Super Vespa”, was in my possession since 1999. I usually keep it in my house for collection purposes or use it at times to send my son to school.
Prior to this, I used to work as a musician, playing across hotels, restaurants and bars in Denpasar, while Putu was formerly a bartender on a cruise ship. However, during the pandemic, everything changed as the hospitality and tourism industry was badly hit. I could barely find any jobs. It was so bad to the point whereby our savings could not last till December 2020. Putu had also been laid off from his job on the cruise ship.
We had to find a way to support ourselves but didn’t want to go into selling food online or a restaurant business as we had completely no knowledge about it. Understanding the business model would take a long time, and the most important thing then was to first feed our families. After discussing with my cousin, we decided to combine the 3 things that we absolutely love – Music, drinks and Vespa, to create a makeshift bar on the Vespa. It’s interesting how life has changed, but what was considered just a hobby has become my bread and butter now.
LG: What is the selling point of the VesBar?
PS: The opportunity for VesBar arose because people were not allowed to go outside during the pandemic. In Bali, we are not allowed to gather in a bar, restaurant or pub, so the idea came whereby we would bring the bar to people’s houses and conduct a private party under meeting safety regulations. I would provide a Disc Jockey and live acoustic facilities, as well as an 11-inch sound system that is good enough for a small in-house event.
On days where there are no bookings, we will just open the VesBar in front of my house or travel around Denpasar to sell drinks. We do not serve liquor or alcoholic beverages in the VesBar, but rather, focus on mocktails or fresh juice. People usually have a bad impression of alcoholic beverages and bars, so I wanted to change the negative perception of this. Besides, having non-alcoholic drinks will attract a wider range of customers from adults to children.
LG: How do you plan to stay ahead of the VesBar competition?
PS: There are currently four Vespa Bars in Bali that operate in different areas. I don’t really see them as competitors, and in fact, would like to invite them to collaborate with me. I’ve also created a chat group whereby all members are Vespa Bar owners in Bali.
I believe that my VesBar is one step ahead of others as I’m also selling “unique contents” that adds value to my business. For example, I do a sharing profit with an Angkringan (Javanese rice and snacks stall in Yogyakarta, Semarang, Solo). They would invite me every Saturday to open the bar and do an “off-air radio”. These customers would request a song from me, where I’ll sing it for them if I knew the song. They can also request a song for other friends as well.
Sometimes, I even perform a talk show for the customers to hype up the atmosphere. As part of the collaborative efforts with the Angkringan, we came to a consensus that they would provide the meals while the drinks will be sold at the VesBar. This collaboration has worked out very well for us.
Other than that, I also have a promotion program that at 2pm, I will conduct a 30 minutes session of guitar or piano for 5 to 10-year-old children for free, with every single purchase of the mocktails. This is because I want to change people’s perception that the bar is not always associated with alcohol, and it can be enjoyable for children as well. The details of my VesBar could be found easily through Instagram.
LG: As a former musician, have you done any music-related work other than the VesBar?
PS: Of course, music has always been my passion. When I’m not running the VesBar, I spend my time writing songs. I have a Youtube Channel where I usually upload my music.
One of the songs I wrote and produced is titled “Untukmu Bumiku” (For You, My Earth). This song was produced during the lockdown, where it had been almost a month that I’ve stayed inside my home. I was doing some thinking and felt that the pandemic was a punishment from mother nature to the human population for not taking care of our environment.
Leo Galuh is an Indonesian based journalist for analytical news service. He loves to meet people and generate ideas for stories. He believes that everyone has an inspiring story that worth-reading. Leo travels a lot and always craves mouth-watering cuisine. Read more of his adventures on HalalTrip
Disclaimer: This article was written by a community contributor. All content is written by and reflects the personal perspective of the writer. If you’d like to contribute, you can apply here.