Photo by Charlie Solorzano on Unsplash
Apr 28, 2022
At Barclays Center, playoff wins aren’t the only thing that’s missing
The Brooklyn Nets' home court is the only New York City sports venue that doesn't serve draft beer
The Brooklyn Nets may boast one of the world’s greatest players and may have been preseason title favorites, but neither could prevent them from being swept out of the playoffs this week at the hands of the Boston Celtics.
The ignominious exit—capping off a tumultuous year that featured one superstar refusing to get vaccinated and another forcing a trade to Philadelphia—overshadowed another fan disappointment: Barclays Center, home to the Nets, doesn’t sell draft beer.
In fact, it’s the only professional sports venue in New York City that doesn’t serve the carbonated goodness. Yankee Stadium, Citi Field, Madison Square Garden and UBS Arena all have it. So too does MetLife Stadium over in New Jersey. But Barclays Center hasn’t had it on offer for at least two seasons.
Brooklyn Magazine spoke with fans, as well as Barclays Center employees, before and after Monday’s playoff game about the arena’s decision to ditch the delicious drafts.
“Draft beer is certainly my first choice for any live sporting event,” said Kevin Gil, a Celtics fan originally from Rhode Island now living in Bushwick. “I can’t say I would prefer to watch a game at another stadium, but I can definitely say it doesn’t make the experience as enjoyable at Barclays.”
While most of the city’s arenas stopped selling draft beer during the pandemic for hygienic reasons, all except Barclays Center brought it back as restrictions loosened and fans returned.
But, according to Mandy Gutmann, a spokesperson for Barclays Center, the adjustment was made to actually improve the game day experience.
“We made the change to packaged beer several years ago to increase our speed of service and ensure that fans could get back to the action quicker,” she said. “Many entertainment venues have made the switch to packaged beer for this same reason. We continue to listen to guest feedback as we work to provide the best experience possible at Barclays Center.”
Gil, a Celtics fan, speaking after the Nets’ 116-112 loss on Monday, was dubious.
“I don’t think getting rid of the draft beer has to do with turn times,” he said. “They sell draft beer at MSG, and I haven’t had any issues getting drinks and back to my seat in a timely fashion. Whatever the reason may be, I hope they have those draft lines fully functional ASAP.”
Barclays Center still has taps attached to their counters and the infrastructure in place to serve draft beer, according to one Barclays Center bartender, who asked to remain anonymous.
He alleges that the arena ultimately got rid of draft beer because it was more expensive and management didn’t want bulky kegs in the building. He encouraged disgruntled fans to air their grievances in the Game Experience Survey. Gutmann did not respond to a request for a reply.
The upsides to selling draft beer are well documented within the industry. Draft beer is universally accepted as “fresher, smoother and colder” than bottled or canned beer, according to Anheuser Busch, a company that serves beer all three ways. The company says the “sight, smell and taste” of draft beer are also perceived to be better.
For Alex Hoff, a Manhattan resident and regular attendee of Nets games, it’s not that big of a deterrent. He believes draft beer is more a staple of baseball than basketball.
“Every time I go to a Yankees game, I end up getting canned beer anyway just because it’s easier,” he said. “It’s faster and it’s super convenient. Otherwise you’re going to have to wait in line for days to get someone to pour a draft beer. I like the idea of draft beer more. It would be nice to have, but it’s not something where I wouldn’t go to Barclays anymore if it’s not an option.”
Douglas Bearak, a Gowanus resident and member of the BK Block and Nets Brigade, two superfan groups, said he prefers draft beer, but it’s a moot point for him, because the beer is too expensive anyway. He sees the appeal of speed, but said eliminating plastic would have been a stronger argument.
“I’m not a beer drinker at Barclays because I honestly hate the prices,” said Bearak, who has attended roughly 40 Nets games this season. “Draft has a more superior feel to it. It’s more refreshing—there’s no chance for that metallic aftertaste. There’s obviously a higher chance for spillage, but I can’t imagine that’s why they switched away from it. From the fan’s standpoint, they obviously want it because it’s more refreshing, especially when you have a bad taste of a season like this in your mouth.”
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