What’s exciting when you do it on a table, more fun when you move it to the floor, and chances are your grandparents are still at it? Shuffleboard, obviously. (Get your mind out of the gutter!) And like most sports once dominated by old people (unlike that other vigorous activity you were thinking of), shuffleboard has grown legs in Brooklyn, with the opening of Royal Palms Shuffleboard Club in Gowanus earlier this month.
Located in a 17,000 square-foot factory, Royal Palms evokes a breezy cabana atmosphere, which feels especially welcome as we trudge through this extra-long winter. Inspired by a stop at St. Petersburg Shuffleboard Club during a road trip through Florida, Royal Palms co-owners Jonathan Schnapp and Ashley Albert brought a little of that sunny retirement chic back to NYC, but with a decidedly younger bent. The ten sunken shuffleboard lanes—concrete painted in a cool aquamarine that reflects off the wood floor, surrounded by white railings— give New York’s first shuffleboard club an indoor pool vibe if you squint hard enough, furthered by black-and-white striped cabanas, palm trees, and bathrooms decked out in flamingo wallpaper.
The “lazy day in the Florida sun” feel also extends to the actual games. Like bocce and curling, shuffleboard offers ample time to chat, swig drinks, and taunt your opponents in between turns. In a nutshell, “tangs” (sticks) are used by teams on each end of the 39-foot-long court to push four biscuits down into the triangular scoring area. And in case your find yourself forgetting the rules and good manners, helpful game-related suggestions (“don’t send a dead biscuit to the kitchen” and “‘keep your pigeons off the fence”) are scrawled around the perimeter of the court, and staff is on-hand to lend the deciding vote on contested scores.
Another thing Royal Palms won’t let you forget, fittingly, is your elders. Each of Royal Palms’ tropical cocktails, served in a mason jar with a fancy umbrella or other tropical accoutrement, is bequeathed the name of a shuffleboard legend. There’s also a nod to days past with a wall of old school pennants emblazoned with various cities and states where the sport took root, and a gaggle of little vintage orange bird statues “singing” in a corner.
Decidedly new school is the food situation. Instead of embarking on the costly venture of building out a kitchen to feed the 300+ people the space can fit, Schnapp and Albert transformed an old loading dock into an ideal spot for eats. They’ve pulled up the garage door and invited a rotating lineup of food trucks—ranging from Morris Grilled Cheese to Mexicue to Wafels and Dinges—to dock inside the building and sling out bites to hungry shufflers.
Want in on the action? Monday and Tuesdays are league nights, but after 10pm and any other day of the week you can get on the court for $40/hour, which works out to a pretty reasonable rate for a four-person team. If you want to up the camp factor, stop by for Wednesday night bingo led by legendary drag duo Linda Simpson and Murray Hill. Live music and mah jong night are also in the works. Royal Palms is basically transforming Gowanus into a one-stop shop for retirement-related activities for the 20-something set, and the old souls and grouchy among us couldn’t be happier to kick it old school.