There’s nothing so nice as messing about on the river – which is why a new floating beer garden could prove popular as it prepares to open to the public.

The 75-foot long open air barge is now moored next to the Boathouse Inn at The Groves with room for up to 67 diners, drinkers and shipmates and could be ‘seaworthy’ as early as this weekend (April 18 and 19) after a few final touches.

Accessible via two gang planks from the beach hut terrace area, it features a painted blue hull and ship decking with fixed booth seating astern and at the bow plus free-flow seating in the middle.

The new 'floating beer garden' barge alongside The Boathouse pub at The Groves in Chester

Ship shape

Excited deputy manager Jakub Dychton said: “We are proud to say that we will be the only permanent place where people can sit on the river to have a drink and a bite to eat.”

Delivery of bespoke furniture including 19 tables is awaited before the craft is moved into its final position ready for opening. There’s no bar on board but table service.

Brewery JW Lees, who gained planning permission for the craft in 2013, craned the 19 tonnes boat onto the Dee at Sandy Lane in March before floating it downstream. JW Lees says the Boathouse has become so busy during peak times that the business required an innovative way to solve the problem that matched its nautical themed outdoor area and complemented its unique position on the River Dee.

‘Captain’ Philip Murray of the Boathouse said: “In May we will have a fantastic new menu and hopefully loads of hot and sunny weather, the barge will give more customers the opportunity to enjoy the unbeatable views we have over the river.”

The current outdoor area at the Boathouse has also received a make-over and a lick of paint ensuring it is ‘ship shape and Bristol fashion’, ready for the launch.

Planning consent

A licensing application was submitted covering the barge, along with a proposed variation to the original planning consent, allowing it to be rotated 180º so the bow faces upstream ‘to reduce and better manage’ the possible build up of debris.

However, the barge concept has had its detractors.

Ward Cllr Samantha Dixon told the planning committee which gave the go-ahead: “This application is tantamount to an al fresco dining area in the middle of a motorway.”

However, planning officer Nick Howard, who recommended approval, said there were a number of pontoons up and downstream of the site and the barge “would not add a further obstruction” as long as vessels were not permitted to moor up to the structure. And The Boathouse understands some of the boats moored opposite the barge may be relocated to create greater width in the river at that point.