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Feb 28, 2010 05:25 PM

Big Apple Barbecue Block Party Fast Pass Now On Sale-- This Year they have added a $25 "service" charge

$125 for $100 worth of Q,that ain't right. I love this event and have gone every year. I have purchased a fast pass the last few years but a $25 charge to wait in a shorter line seems a bit much. It is not like the fast pass means no line, every year there are still very long lines for some stands despite the pass.The non fast pass lines are insane and I won't spend my whole day standing on a line so the bottom line for me is that I love the food,can afford the extra charge, and as I'm unlikely to visit the out of towners at their own restaurants I guess I'll buy a Fast Pass. I'm not happy about it though.

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  1. I agree, The $25 is a little steep given the lines and no extra bbq. When I went last year some booths were running out of food pretty early. To me there is no way to go without a fast pass.

    If anyone is not using their companion pass I would be interested in it. I have an extra person coming this year and we don't want to buy a new pass as we won't need the extra $$ in food. If anyone isn't using the guest pass I would be willing buy it.

    3 Replies
    1. re: mambwe

      Unless things have changed, there is no such thing as a companion pass. One pass admits two persons past the security guards at the entrance to the Fast Pass areas.

      1. re: meatme

        With each pass you get 2 separate passes. One is the punchcard with the money and the 2nd is for your guest. That is how it was last year.

        I'm trying to get a guest pass.

        1. re: meatme

          Last year was the first year with the companion pass. A separate pass with no monetary punch cards.

          I will not be spending the extra $25 on the fast pass this year. Prepaying (and guaranteeing I'll spend) $100 on BBQ should be sufficient for the fast pass.

      2. My memory might be failing me on this subject but I seem to remember the original pass (Bubba Fast Pass?), offered value GREATER than the purchase price. I recall paying $100 for $120 worth of food. Anyone else remember that?
        Then the last few years it was even-up, and now this.

        1 Reply
        1. re: gnocchi

          In 2007, I remember it was $100 for $84 worth of food/goods/seminars/etc. plus a free t-shirt. I think in 2006, it was $150 for $150 of food.

          I think they change it up dependent on performance/demand.

        2. BABBP=fail. I'll pass this year. Thanks for the heads-up on this ripoff.

          1. Thank you for the head's up. The $25 is steep, frankly, when you consider you are already committing to buy $100 of bbq and --- most importantly, the fast pass lines are still insane.

            I'm not sure if there is any answer but, each year the lines seem to have gotten worse. Though they were never great. Perhaps if you go before noon, and have a bbq bkfst they aren't so bad. I don't know. I do know that last year it was absurd. Has the event outgrown its location? Or, they need yet more vendors?

            13 Replies
            1. re: comiendosiempre

              Adding vendors only seems to make it worse. I long for the days when it was only a bunch of trucks parked outside Blue Smoke, and a 25 person line seemed daunting.

              On top of the prices, and insane lines, it always appears to fall on one of the hottest days of the year, and they manage to set it up just perfectly to minimize the possibility of finding shade.

              Blue Smoke
              116 East 27th Street, New York, NY 10016

              1. re: sugartoof

                I have never gone. Could you please elaborate on what the lines are like?

                1. re: runwestierun

                  They're usually well organized, once you figure out where the end of the line is, and what vendor they're lined up for, but expect some of the most daunting lines in all of Manhattan.

                  There is no way to predict how fast or slow the lines will go, but more often than not, they're slow. In past years, it wasn't uncommon to get halfway there and find out they're out of food, or the pitmaster was in between batches. More often than not the lines will just stop, and you're not sure why.

                  The major reason people buy the passes are to skip the general lines, for the VIP lines, which are still absurdly long. That said, there will be some booths without much lines at all, some that zip through in 15 minutes or so, and some that just never move, and take an hour. That hour estimation isn't a joke, be prepared to stand in line for upwards of an hour for the more popular cuts of meat/pitmasters. You can walk around and decide who you want to eat from based on the line, or which line you want to avoid.

                  1. re: runwestierun

                    The longest lines are always at Salt Lick (brisket) and 17th Street (baby back ribs). Both of them are from out of town, offer items that the other vendors don't (most offer one signature item and that is it), and are pretty big names.

                    My hunch is that the lines progress slowly or are burst-y because making BBQ to feed a big crowd is an inexact science. They put a bunch of meat into smokers and batch them, spreading them out by hours at a time. When one batch is ready, the next one won't be ready for maybe another 30 minutes or another hour. Since BBQ is a slow cooking process, if you mis-estimate demand, you're screwed. And the vendors don't want to bring home a ton of uneaten meat, either, so they plan to sell out by the end of the day. Most of them lose money by doing this since they drive to NYC with all of their own meat and equipment. They're doing it for cred and for charity.

                    My tips:

                    Get there before noon, bring a friend, split up. You *must* hit up these out of town pitmasters:
                    1. Chris Lilly, Big Bob Gibson Bar-B-Q, Pulled Pork Shoulder. With the best BBQ sauce. Sweet, tangy, tomato based sauce. The pork is pulled and comes in nice chunks.
                    2. The Pit, Ed Mitchell, for NC style Whole Hog (the entire hog is chopped up, not just the shoulder), it's very tender, soft, chopped very finely. Almost melts in your mouth. Nice vinegary sauce.
                    3. 17th Street Baby Back Ribs, Mike Mills. Saucy and sweet. Fatty.
                    4. The Salt Lick, Driftwood, TX for brisket and sausage (ask for the deckle, which is the fatty part, I think their brisket is very good but not the absolute greatest, but I've been to places in hill country in Texas like Smitty's, Black's, Cooper's, etc).
                    5. Skip all NYC vendors.
                    6. Don't eat a big breakfast. Eat some salad for dinner, if you actually get hungry later.

                    Lines are HIGHLY dependent upon who we're talking about (Salt Lick and 17th Street are perenially long) weather and time of day (earlier is better, there will be fewer people if it's super hot or muggy or rainy). And overall, Sunday is always more smooth than Saturday since it's volunteer staffed. I've gone the last 3-4 years and rarely had a problem with lines. I have a FastPass, I get there around 11:30am and I'm usually done by 2pm. Longest line last year I think was 30 minutes.

                    Every year has been different in my experience, from "the registers just went down and nobody knows what to do" to "oops, we just ran out of food, can you wait for the next batch?" to "the lady in front of me just bought 12 plates of BBQ!" to "something went wrong with this batch of hush puppies and we need to all start over." It really depends on how organized each individual vendor is.

                    Reports from last year:

                    1. re: kathryn

                      Great tips. I STRONGLY recommend abiding by the "show up before noon and split up" rule. Two friends of mine live right near there, and we hit the stands at 11:30 or so every year, splitting up of course.

                      In general, the BBQ joints from out of town have the longest lines, so hit up Big Bob Gibson/Ed Mitchell/etc first - sending one person in your group to each line, then if you are still hungry, try some of the NY places.

                      I have never experienced a stand being out of food, however, I have never gone to a stand past 1 or 2 pm.

                      1. re: kathryn

                        I can't imagine they're losing money. They wouldn't continue to come back year after year if that was the case. These are people who do the BBQ festival circuit. One would think they'd rather end the day with some uneaten BBQ they can donate to charity rather than leave put people through the abusive lines with the possibility you're sending people home unfed.

                        It's just an avoidable experience I can't ever picture myself repeating.

                        1. re: sugartoof

                          Every single long line I've been on (all while holding a fastpass) had nothing to do with running out of bbq. It is either sheer ineptness and/or overselling the fastpass.

                          To be honest, allowing people with a fastpass to also pay by cash doesn't help things either, it just slows down the process even more. I personally think they should also ditch the drinks at each vendor. That way they are selling one thing, at one price, no cash which would make the whole process, at least for a fastpass holder.

                          Instead they decided to jack the fastpass price up 25% for the privileged of only waiting an hour for Salt Lick or 30 minutes for BIg Bob Gibson.

                          1. re: sugartoof


                            Organizer Danny Meyer pays a fixed travel allowance, $2,500 in recent years, which barely covers costs for most out-of-state vendors.

                            1. re: kathryn

                              Why would food profits all go back to the Park? I question the accuracy of that. The event started on 27th Street a couple blocks from the park. The vendors wouldn't have stayed on and moved to the park location for a growing event that was going to deny them profits.

                              In all the years of the event, no effort has been made to decrease the lines or handle the crowds with faster service. Plus let's be honest. It's not uncommon to find yourself standing in a line that's not moving, with piles of meat sitting there waiting to be served.

                              By the way, my observations are without the vip pass. Paying $80-125 for a tasting always seemed steep.

                              1. re: sugartoof

                                In 2009, the event generated $100,000 for the Madison Square Park Conservancy.

                                1. re: kathryn

                                  Sounds like they could triple their travel stipend to the vendors and still provide a healthy donation to the park.

                                  There must be some reason the vendors participate aside for sweetening Danny Meyers preexisting Shake Shack agreements with the city parks dept.

                                  Shake Shack
                                  Madison Ave and E 23rd St, New York, NY 10010

                                2. re: sugartoof

                                  "In all the years of the event, no effort has been made to decrease the lines or handle the crowds with faster service. Plus let's be honest. It's not uncommon to find yourself standing in a line that's not moving, with piles of meat sitting there waiting to be served."
                                  Well, to be honest they have done a few things to smooth out the confusion. They have added additional vendors and expanded more onto Madison Ave. In the early years i remember the lines being really chaotic, people didn't even know what line they were on, all kinds of line cutting, etc.
                                  Also early on, no cash was accepted, you had to purchase paper tickets, an additional hassle.
                                  So the spreading out with more corrals and Fast Passes have helped, but now it seems to be evolving into something more elitist, with surcharges for passes, hospitality tents for those willing to pay, while the average poor schmuck waits on a long line. I can tell you for sure I remember paying $200 on AMEX and getting $225 of food. Now it's the other way around, in essence "what the NYC traffic will bear". I can bear it, but I don't need it that bad.

                                  1. re: gnocchi

                                    I partially agree, but even the expansion on the Madison has caused chaos. They're now allowing promotional vendors giving out soft drinks, by the afternoon it looks like a pack of bears tore threw the place.

                    2. With their sales, I think it would be impossible not to make a small fortune. And, if that wasn't being made, the pit masters wouldn't come year after year.

                      3 Replies
                      1. re: comiendosiempre

                        exactly....and sales are almost guaranteed....they'll sell as much meat as they can bring/cook.

                        1. re: comiendosiempre

                          Keep in mind, though, there's probably a difference in catering a barbecue festival in the South with a few thousand attendees vs. one in NYC with tens of thousands of people showing up.

                          I did some digging and this is what I've found as paraphrased by someone who was associated with the organizers, but is no long as close to the event:
                          - The event organizers provide all the local support. They provide staff, infrastructure, and ingredients.
                          - Some vendors bring their equipment, others rent locally.
                          - The vendors bring a small crew to handle cooking and some parts of assembly. The rest are from the events team.
                          - Every vendor gets a travel stipend based on distance, plus an attendance fee.
                          - Every vendor agrees to serve a set number orders per day for a flat fee. If they choose to serve more, that's their choice, but the fee doesn't increase.

                          1. re: kathryn

                            EIther way, the set up looks hectic for the vendors, it's hectic for the attendees... and I know I'm not the only one who gave up on the event a long time ago.