McBarge: Abandoned, floating McDonald’s to undergo renovations

Goran Blazeski
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The idea of a floating McDonald’s restaurant sounds a little far-fetched. Believe it or not, though, the company has tried it!

Actually, they’ve tried it several times. The first was built in St. Louis, Missouri, but the story of the second floating McDonald’s in Vancouver, Canada is much more fascinating.

The “McBarge,” an abandoned floating McDonald’s restaurant in Vancouver. Photo Credit

The boat that once housed the rare floating McDonald’s no longer serves Big Macs. It’s been completely abandoned for nearly 30 years in a creek on Canada’s west coast.

Friendship 500, a floating McDonald’s restaurant, also known as the McBarge, anchored in Burrard Inlet near Vancouver, BC. Photo Credit

The “McBarge,” officially known as Friendship 500, was built in 1986 for an estimated cost of $9 million (nearly $20 million in today’s money). Robert Allan Ltd. designed it for the World’s Fair Expo in 1986, which was held in Vancouver.

The boat was one of five McDonald’s locations inside the Expo grounds and was undoubtedly a unique place for popular fast food. The futuristic exterior, the classy interior, and the workers in nautical uniforms made this place a real hit among visitors to Expo 86.

The McBarge, floating around Burrard Inlet. Photo Credit

McBarge was originally supposed to stay in operation after the end of Expo 86 in October, but it never reopened. According to Business Insider, “locals were ready to see it moved from the False Creek waterfront in Vancouver and float to a different location. McDonald’s finally allowed the new owners to move it to Vancouver’s less-populated Burrard Inlet in 1991.”

Since then, the 187-foot-long ghost ship has become covered in rust, graffiti, and dirt. However, not everyone has lost hope that the stunning McBarge could make a comeback. In 2009, locals began a Facebook group called Save the McBarge (Friendship 500). The group now has over 3,000 members who share photos and discuss the current status of the boat.

McBarge was supposed to remain in operation after Expo 86 ended in October, but it was never reopened. Photo Credit

There is some good news for all lovers of the McBarge. Howard Meakin, who bought the boat in 2010, moved it from the inaccessible Burrard Inlet after nearly 30 years, with the intention of restoring it.

“It will be restored and refitted,” Meakin told the Vancouver Sun. “It could be in Vancouver, but it could be in other places as well. We’re not saying exactly where it’s going to be located, but the plan is that it will undergo extensive renovations.”

The barge is scheduled for a $4.5-million refit. Photo Credit

It will all happen in 2016,” he added, “and we expect that it’s going to take probably most of the year to do the work.” 

Read another story from us: The intriguing story behind McDonald’s Golden Arches 

The boat’s exterior and interior will both get upgrades in the estimated $4.5 million renovations.