New York City's Brooklyn Barge Bar (BBB) is making waves with a unique concept. After spending six months retro-fitting a vintage barge, the BBB opened up earlier this year in Brooklyn's Greenpoint neighborhood. It's not only a bar and restaurant with incredible views, though, it's also a spot that hopes to engage locals in water-based activities like kayaking, paddleboarding and boat tours, so you can cruise on the water, stand-up paddleboard or go kayaking before relaxing with drinks and dinner at BBB.
We spoke to BBB's general manager William Drawbridge (yes, that's his real, nautical-themed name) about exactly what a barge is, what it takes to make it inhabitable and how they're working to remind New Yorkers about how close to the water they actually are…
It's a waterfront community that has free programming — free kayaking, free sailing, free fishing, free kids programs, science programs and educational programs. It's all made sustainable by a bar/restaurant that is located on a retro-fitted barge that was built in the 1930s.
A barge is a work platform, for all intents and purposes. This particular one is a work platform — it used to be a crane barge that transported cranes to and from waterfront construction sites. It's like a mobile workstation – a huge flat-bottomed vessel that doesn't draw a lot of water.
It's very particular – you can't just choose any kind of barge. A lot of barges, not to get all nautical on you, are very low below decks so you wouldn't be able to stand up. We generate our own power, we have two generators and you need space to be able to move around to do that. We also have storage down below and employee areas down below and wastewater tanks and freshwater tanks. So you need a very particular kind of boat to do this.
You have to be very creative in your design and build because you're dealing with an interesting animal — it's not a building. It moves. You can't put all the weight on one side because it'll tilt. How do you get people safely and securely and confidently from one spot to the next? There are a lot of factors, not to mention the agencies that you need to work with to make something like this happen. The United States Coast Guard, the Army Corps of Engineers – those are rarely agencies that you hear people talk about when they're opening a restaurant.
If you ask people in New York City, they often forget that they live actually on an island. That they're surrounded by water. And around here, especially the area that we're in, it's hyper-industrial, or it's being developed into million-dollar apartments. There's really no middle ground where we are except for what we're doing.
We're accessible to the general population. Hopefully we're setting a precedent in the development of the New York — and especially Brooklyn — waterfront to promote a socially conscious, responsible development.