Interview With the Owner: Mike Heitzler of On the Rocks Mobile Bar

Mike Heitzler owns and operates the On the Rocks mobile bar throughout northern Colorado together with his wife, Kate. Mike is an aerospace program manager 9-5 and a bartending entrepreneur 24/7. 

Mike sat for an interview recently to discuss the concept behind On the Rocks, challenges and successes as a small business owner, and home life.

On the Rocks owner Mike Heitzler serves kombucha from his four-tap draft tower at the 2021 Easter Keg Hunt in downtown Fort Collins.
Owner Mike Heitzler serves kombucha from his four-tap draft tower at the 2021 Easter Keg Hunt in downtown Fort Collins.

Q: When did you start On the Rocks?

It was the summer of 2019. I started running the idea of a mobile winery truck by a vintner from Sweetheart Winery, who I ran into at a brewery. There was a local brewery with a big wine barrel truck, and it started expanding the idea from there. 

When I started looking into the costs, I learned that horse trailers were an affordable way to go, especially when I decided to do it myself. 

Q: How did you progress from that mobile wine bar concept to the business you have today, with beer taps and serving all kinds of drinks?

My wife had a friend who, at her wedding, had a trailer with beer taps. It got me thinking about our wedding – it was such a pain to find a venue that had a bar, and the cost of getting a mobile bartender to come to a venue was so high. 

As I started thinking about that, [I realized] it would have been so easy to have this concept. It takes a lot of the stress away for people planning their own bar and way to serve alcohol.

A rusted horse trailer spray-painted with graffiti rests in a snowy field at the base of the Colorado foothills.
Then: Mike and Katie took a gamble and purchased a neglected horse trailer, “Pearl,” with a DIY vision for a rustic, minimalist mobile bar.
The On the Rocks mobile bar is pictured at the 2022 Annual Group Valentine’s Day Wedding in Loveland, Colorado. The bar is white with wood paneling and a live-edge bar and decorated with greenery and flowers.
Now: After replacing rusted-out metal paneling, sandblasting, welding, woodworking, re-painting, and the addition of vintage copper tiles and a live-edge wood light fixture on the ceiling, Pearl travels throughout northern Colorado for events.

Q: What has been your biggest challenge since starting On the Rocks?

I think just being a perfectionist, wanting everything to be perfect. We decided we wanted a tap, and we didn’t just go buy a tap that was already made online. We custom designed one. We chose a glycol cooling tap so we could keep the lines cold and keep the foam down, and that led us down the road to getting a glycol cooling unit. You can’t buy a cheap glycol unit to cool beer; you have to have a specific one that works with the lines. 

Being so specific with everything led us down a challenging path where we had to have the best of the best. But I’m happy with how everything has turned out.

When you think about the [mobile bar] concept, it seems easy, but as you get into it, it takes you down all these paths, and it becomes very time-consuming. I had to play it by ear as I went. There were zero mobile bars in northern Colorado when we got started, so we were pretty much pioneers at the time.

Q: What is your favorite thing about running your mobile bar business?

I think my favorite thing is the clients. Recently, we had the Stove Prairie Ranch wedding, the RE/MAX event, and the landscaping company event, and they are just all fun people. It’s a different industry for me; I work in aerospace program management, so I work with a bunch of nerds [laughs], and so to get out there and work with different people is exciting. 

The people that I meet day-to-day – that’s definitely the win. People are excited to see what we have, and I see a lot of interest in the mobile bar business. 

Q: Do you have a favorite event that On the Rocks has done thus far?

The recent Stove Prairie Ranch wedding and our RE/MAX events would definitely be some of my favorites. Our mixers for the landscaping company – those guys are really awesome. 

The Stove Prairie Ranch venue was amazing. The event coordinator there loved the bar, and got me in touch with their maintenance guy who does all the woodworking at Stove Prairie, so we just hit it off. 

Again, my favorite thing about the business is all the people I meet. And so far, I haven’t met anyone who didn’t like what we have to offer.

On the Rocks bartender Tiffany serves up Moscow mules at the 2021 Annual Group Valentine’s Day Wedding in Loveland.
On the Rocks bartender Tiffany serves up Moscow mules at the 2021 Annual Group Valentine’s Day Wedding in Loveland.

Q: What do you think sets On the Rocks apart from other mobile bars?

The amount of research that went into the beer tap is what most sets us apart. The glycol cooling system, the custom draft tower, the faucets themselves are top of the line for temperature control and foam mitigation. 

The other thing that sets us apart is our bartenders. The bartenders we work with through My Big Day Marketing & Events, the experience they offer is just night and day compared with other bartenders in the industry. You can’t compare these guys you find online to an experienced bartender who can interact with and serve these large crowds and keep everyone happy. The feedback we receive [about our bartenders] is great. 

Q: Okay, now a few fun questions. What is your drink of choice?

Recently – because I’m getting old – I like the Old Fashioneds. I like Bourbon a lot. Homemade Old Fashioneds are my favorite. 

Q: What is your favorite thing to do in your spare time (if you have any)?

Going off-roading, just getting out into the mountains, fishing, hunting – anything in the outdoors. Just getting away from the grind of everyday life. Also, hanging out with friends, having the neighbors around – it’s great to just kick back and relax with some great people. 

Q: What’s family life like?

Katie and I have been married since August 2013 – I’d better not forget the anniversary, that’s coming up! We have three girls, so not a lot of spare time. We have two Boxer dogs and a funny farm. We have a llama, a goat, and two horses. We’ll be building a barn on our property soon. 

Interviewer: It sounds like you’re always getting into another project.

Oh, yeah. If you talk to [my wife] Katie, it’s one project after another. Katie has been a big help with the business too. She was very involved from the beginning with the planning and customization of the bar. 

We’ve learned a lot as we’ve gone, and we just roll with the punches and figure it out together. 

Book On the Rocks for your next event for safe alcohol service at an affordable price. For nonprofit, corporate, wedding, and private party news and tips, follow On the Rocks on Facebook and Instagram. You can also find bar decor and drink ideas on our Pinterest board.

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