Originally established in 1917, The Barn transformed from a farm and stable to an eatery and concert venue over the course of seven decades. Closed in June 2018 for renovations, The Barn is expected to host its grand reopening in March, according to Benjamin Eisenstein, the strategic marketing and communications manager of UC Riverside’s Housing, Dining & Hospitality Services.
“The primary purpose we renovated The Barn is so that it’s a restaurant for everyone and an entertainment venue,” stated Marcus Van Vleet, director of The Barn and Retail Dining, in an interview with The Highlander.
The Barn complex is broken up into three buildings: Barn Dining, the Faculty and Staff Lounge, and the Barn Theater. Additionally, the complex also includes a ticket booth, an outdoor patio with a concert stage and a green room.
Inside Barn Dining, indoor seating consists of booths, high top tables, a banquet table, four top seating and two top seating. With an exposed-beam ceiling, the rafters are original Barn beams, charred from a fire in the 1970s.
According to Van Vleet, “What we call the Barn Dining is platform dining.” Within the building, there are four “platforms,” or sections with different food options. Van Vleet stated that by utilizing the platform dining strategy, they were able to increase food variety by about 400%.
The first dining platform is the deli concept, which offers seven to nine sandwiches daily. The platform will offer specialty sandwiches as well as made to order ham, turkey and roast beef sandwiches.
In order to reduce single-use plastic, Van Vleet stated that, “Every single cup is a souvenir cup with The Barn logo on it,” with different colored logos identifying alcoholic and non-alcoholic beverages.
The second dining platform is the salad station. The salad station will offer fresh salads made to order, with between six and eight salads offered daily; there will also be a “Barn Signature Salad” and a “Barn Caesar salad,” according to Van Vleet.
The third station is a hot table, offering two protein entrees and a plant-based option daily. They will also offer side dishes that can be ordered either with an entree or a la carte.
The last platform is a traditional grill, where customers can purchase chicken sandwiches, burgers and specialty sandwiches made to order.
The Barn will also offer grab-and-go options and fresh soups made from scratch.
In regards to the sourcing of produce, Van Vleet stated, “Our main focus is to stay local, within 500 miles from our campus.” He added that members from R’Garden had reached out to him and are working on a plan to incorporate produce from the garden into the food served at The Barn.
Inside Barn Dining, the original stage was expanded and can be used as a meeting space. Seating inside The Barn was increased “by around 150%,” claimed Van Vleet, with Barn Dining able to hold around 100 people, the east patio able to hold 150 people and the main patio able to hold 200 people.
“We’re not booking The Barn when we open,” stated Van Vleet, adding that they need some time to understand when The Barn will be busy and when it won’t be. In regards to the Riverside community accessing Barn Dining, Van Vleet stated that “We’re working with TAPS on coming up with a solution to get parking situated … given that we’re closing lots due to construction, it’s not in the front burner and we’re in the process of solving that issue.” Barn Dining’s official hours will be from 7:30 a.m. to 8:00 p.m.
Outside, the main patio hosts the outdoor stage. Student groups have the opportunity to use the stage to practice and perform during the day. “We really want to focus on being an entertainment venue,” stated Van Vleet. Van Vleet said that they have partnered with a third-party talent booker and Riverside resident who has booked talent for Romano’s and other places around Riverside.
According to Van Vleet, the goal is to “understand the music scene of Riverside” when booking entertainment, and the overall goal is to bring out artists who “appeal to everyone.” The site can hold almost 1,100 people, but concerts will have minimal seating and hold around 500 people. “Our goal is to have talent on that stage seven days a week,” Van Vleet stated.
The main patio also consists of an outdoor bar, which will be operating concurrent to Barn Dining’s working hours. “We will be primarily serving beer and wine,” Van Vleet explained. He added that The Barn’s alcohol service will be run by a third-party individual who owns The Sire in Riverside.
The Faculty and Staff Lounge, also referred to as “The Stable,” features a full bar, a green room and reservable tables. The main dining area consists of lounge chairs, half high tables with lamps, high top tables and low top tables. “We can seat up to 70 people here,” Van Vleet stated.
The Stable is a fully operational restaurant, with a host that seats guests and servers taking orders. “We’ll have a buffet of the day, similar to the platform dining concept,” Van Vleet explained. He stated that they will also have a robust appetizer menu, in case the soups or salads are not of interest to customers. There is currently a loyalty program being developed for The Stable where customers will be able to accumulate points and gain rewards.
The bar top of the full bar is made from black walnut, which was harvested from a tree that was called to be removed during the construction of The Barn. The full bar will offer beer, wine and distilled spirits. The Faculty and Staff Lounge will be open from 11:00 a.m. to 10:00 p.m. “We want this place to be a campus hangout spot, where everyone can come here and have great food and great experiences,” stated Van Vleet.
The Faculty and Staff Lounge includes a green room, which will be used when The Barn books talent. There will also be a conference table in the green room so faculty and staff can have the opportunity to book the room as a meeting space.
The Barn Theater is the last building within The Barn complex. “The Taiko drum group would be there, there’s some classes that would be booked in here as well,” Van Vleet explained. He added that if there is a popular act going on and there are no classes in session, they would use the space as a VIP box. He also noted, however, that they are still working on the details on that.
The Barn is anticipated to host a soft opening prior to the grand opening. As of right now, there is no specific date or time for the grand opening.
“We’re super excited to deliver a great experience and exceed that,” Van Vleet expressed. He added, “We want it to be a great place for faculty, staff, students and the community of Riverside to be at.”