Meant to appeal to the increasingly class-conscious consumers of the 1980s, the “McBarge” was a floating McDonald’s constructed on a barge for Vancouver, British Columbia’s Expo ‘86 world’s fair.
The menu was typical McDonald’s, but the watery locale was supposed to add panache, alongside the wooden floors, potted plants, and framed art. Unlike other McDonald’s, the kitchen was hidden, and the food was delivered to a front counter via a conveyor belt. By most accounts, the restaurant (built for a rumored $8 million) was a success but attempts to moor it at a permanent location once Expo ‘86 ended failed.
In 1991, the new owners of the site where the barge had been moored asked the company to tow it elsewhere. The Friendship 500 was moved to a site near an oil refinery in Burrard Inlet, and was more or less forgotten about for at least a decade. It was rediscovered in the early aughts, perhaps thanks in part to its use a filming location for Blade: Trinity. Developer Howard Meakin and his wife Kathy bought the boat in early 2010, and have submitted a proposal to the Mission, British Columbia city council for a waterfront development that would use a refurbished McBarge as the centerpiece. Meanwhile, the barge has been vandalized and graffitied, its Yuppie decor slowly tarnished by a constellation of rust, mold, and bird poop.
Update 2016: The current owner had the barge towed to Maple Ridge to undergo renovations.
Update 2018: The Friendship 500/McBarge is now docked behind the Imperial Cedar Products Ltd sawmill in Maple Ridge.
Know Before You Go
Visiting may or may not be possible, depending on whether the Imperial Cedar Products Ltd saw mill allows and gives permission to visit their site.