A player gets ready to send a shot across one of the new courts at the Royal Palms Shuffleboard Club. Credit: Emily Johnson, Metro
A bartender in a Hawaiian shirt hailed a group of patrons who had just walked into the Royal Palms Shuffleboard Club Wednesday night, their noses red from the cold.
“Thanks for coming in on our first night!” he said, prompting one woman’s breathless reply: “We’ve been waiting!”
With last week’s grand opening, the much-anticipated shuffleboard facility has delivered a welcome breath of tropical air to winter-weary Brooklyn.
The massive former factory space is just a stone’s throw from the Gowanus Canal on trendy Union Street, a few blocks from the new Brooklyn Whole Foods. It boasts two bars well-stocked with custom cocktails and tiny umbrellas, a bathroom covered in shocking pink flamingo wallpaper, and a floor ringed with deck chairs and festive cabana booths.
But the real showstoppers here are the ten pristine, ocean blue shuffleboard courts that take up a significant chunk of the club’s 17,000 square feet.
Shuffleboard, that staple of Florida retirement communities and cruise ships, may seem like an odd choice for an up-and-coming Brooklyn neighborhood. But the way Jonathan Schnapp sees it, the moment was right.
“It was an idea whose time had come,” said Schnapp, who dreamed up the club together with partner Ashley Albert. “We feel really fortunate that we stumbled into something that New York, Brooklyn, the country is really ready for.”
The idea first occurred to the two friends when they stopped in St. Petersburg, Fla. on a road trip and fell in love with a shuffleboard club run by a woman named Christine Page.
Two years and one Kickstarter fundraising effort later, a drink called the Christine Page Punch now sits atop the cocktail list at the Royal Palms bar. But going from inspiration to reality was a long process, and it was only when they went all in and rented the building in Gowanus — a neighborhood Schnapp said is “really pretty magical right now” — that they began seeing signs they were on to something.
“We plunked down the money for the lease and that same week, someone from Gothamist, I think it was Jen Carlson, wrote an article saying, ‘You know what Brooklyn needs? A shuffleboard bar!’” Albert said.
And a shuffleboard bar it most decidedly has. Royal Palms’ ten courts can accommodate 40 players at a time — 80 if they play four to a team. The club is hosting Monday and Tuesday night shuffleboard leagues, and the top two players will each earn a spot at the 33rd International Shuffleboard Association World Championship in Ontario in August of this year.
On Wednesday night, rookie players picked up their tangs — the long sticks that push the discs, or biscuits, across the court. Between sips of pina coladas, they began tentatively lining up their shots.
“It’s been so fun seeing people trying it out,” said Schnapp, who is the 82nd-ranked male shuffleboard player in the world. Albert is the 68th-ranked woman. “It’s pretty new to most people around here.” He paused, his gaze captured by something happening courtside. “Although, that guy…”
He put a hand around his mouth and shouted, “Nice shot over there, court number two!”