Bar thrown for a loss

The Brooklyn Paper
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Everyone loves bar games, but one Red Hook pub — or, possibly, its insurance company — has decided it can no longer afford the price of fun.

In a sad nod to our litigious age, Jimmy Leonard, a co-owner of the Pioneer Bar-B-Q, 318 Van Brunt St., will refashion the watering hole’s backyard horseshoe pit after realizing that the bar could be liable for injuries caused by flying iron shoes.

“It’s a little dangerous with horseshoes winging through the air and people drinking,” said Leonard. “We actually debated whether to keep [the horseshoes] at all.”

Until now, the rustic and often unruly bar has kept its gravel game pit unfenced — and within a smoker’s exhale of its pork-belly-red tables.

That intimate design has raised the concern of insurance-conscious owners — and rightly so.

“If someone throws a wild one, the bar is completely liable,” said Jon Lipton, an agent with Castle Rock Agency, who does not work for the bar. “And if things are sloppy and crowded, someone is more likely to get hit.”

Worse, the intimate conditions also violate National Horseshoe Pitchers Association regulations, which require barriers between spectators and players, who are often intoxicated while tossing the 2.5-pound iron, or steel shoes.

“You see some wild pitches,” said horseshoe manufacturer Bob White. “And a hit to the head or neck is no little thing.”

White sells thousands of horseshoe sets to bars through his game manufacturing company, White Distributors. He suggested that the Pioneer leave 12 feet between the pit and the bar’s tables.

“People are sitting around drinking,” he said. “They aren’t going to be able to jump out of the way fast enough.”

The latest plans for the pit include enclosing it in chicken wire and rearranging some of the tables in order to allow a larger margin of error.

“The chicken wire would keep the roadhouse feel,” said bartender Chris Piscitelli. “But there would be a little protection, so people can watch and do their heckling without getting hit by an errant ball.”

Leonard admitted that the unregulated nature of Pioneer’s horseshoe pit complemented the cowboy spirit of the place.

“It added something wild,” he said.

But “wild” is also a synonym for lawsuits nowadays.

Risky bar games

Throwing heavy objects while intoxicated is an age-old pastime that has recently reached a new level of popularity among Brooklyn drinkers. But as our front-page story reveals, insurance companies are increasingly questioning the practice. Jon Lipton of Castle Rock Insurance Agency told The Brooklyn Paper how insurance companies view several popular beer-soaked diversions.

— Ariella Cohen


“The balls are on the ground, but they are heavy. Someone could accidentally throw a bocce ball and hit someone. The bar is completely liable.”


“Anyone can get hurt. Say some chick gets mad at her boyfriend and throws a dart in his [rear end], there’s a risk.”

Big Buck Hunter video game

“There is no risk per se, but the insurance companies don’t like any games because of the competition … the testosterone.”


“The sticks are potential weapons. Until recently in New York, pool halls couldn’t even serve liquor.”

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