The nautical-themed Friendship 500, better known as the McBarge, was built for Expo '86, a celebration of Vancouver's centennial. Like seemingly every new McDonald's buildout, it aimed at cool kids, who in the mid-80s apparently aspired to dinner with the cruise captain. Left to fester on the open water for the last several decades, according to Metro UK, the barge is about to under go a pricey makeover. The resurrection is expected to be complete by year's end.
Originally built at a cost of $12 million (today it would cost just shy of $26 million), it featured staff in sailor uniforms, McDonald's branded portholes, potted plants, a dining room with panoramic views of Vancouver, merlot-colored accents, and a hidden kitchen. After five years at the site and with plans to find it a new port unfulfilled, the McBarge was towed away and allowed to decay into what looks uncannily like a level from a post-apocalyptic video game.
Now it appears the McBarge is headed for a future beyond ghost-hunter YouTube videos and curiosity tourism. In December, the vessel's current owner, Howard Meakin, had it cleaned and towed to a Vancouver suburb where it will undergo a $4.5 million refurbishment. Meakin won't say what it will be or where it will end up, giving the Vancouver Sun this gem of coyness, "It could be in Vancouver, but it could be in other places as well." He says it will remain in British Columbia. Meakin's previous attempt to turn the barge into a restaurant and pub went no where but he says this project will be unveiled by the end of the year.
Crucially, because Meakin is not a McDonald's franchisee, the McBarge probably won't come back as a McDonald's. Still, there's time if McDonald's Canada decides to swoop in and save the floating fortress. Perhaps it could fit into the company's current and ongoing redesign plans which include new graphic-heavy packaging, slightly updated store designs, and a more "millennial-friendly" Ronald McDonald.