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BB Riverboats brings private event space to Ohio Riverfront with River’s Edge at Newport Landing

By Mark Hansel
NKyTribune managing editor

The newest addition to the BB Riverboat family, River’s Edge, was christened in a ceremony on the new Newport Landing dock facility on Riverboat Row in Newport on November 13.

BB Riverboats owner Alan Bernstein said the christening was planned to coincide with three occasions.

The former casino barge in the top photo has been transformed by BB Riverboats into the River’s Edge event facility. It is housed on the new Newport Landing dock facility on Riverboat Row in Newport (photos by Mark Hansel).

“It’s the 40th anniversary of BB Riverboats, the 20th anniversary for the Belle of Cincinnati and the christening of our new facility, the River’s Edge and our barge that supports all of our vessels,” Bernstein said.

River’s Edge is a state-of-the-art event center that allows up to 225 guests to enjoy the Ohio River without ever setting sail.

Bernstein brought the former casino barge to Northern Kentucky and it has been converted into the event facility, catering operation, wharf, and business offices.

It was once part of a floating complex that housed the Argosy Casino in Sioux City, Iowa.

It is Cincinnati and Northern Kentucky’s only private event space located on the Ohio River.

The facility is designed to host and cater weddings, rehearsal dinners, family reunions, corporate meeting or sorority/fraternity parties.

BB Riverboats gets its name from the initials of the people who were instrumental in getting the business started; Ben Bernstein and Betty Blake. 

Christening of the BB Riverboats River's Edge facility on November 13 at Riverboat Row in Newport

Posted by Mark Hansel on Monday, November 18, 2019

Christening of the BB Riverboats River’s Edge facility on November 13 at Riverboat Row in Newport.

In 1977, Ben Bernstein purchased the Mike Fink Restaurant in Covington, from Captain John Beatty.

Bernstein coined the phrase, “The Romance of Riverboat Dining” for his family’s new restaurant and opened it shortly after the purchase.

Alan Bernstein at the christening of the new BB Riverboats River’s Edge facility. The christening event also coincided with the 40th anniversary of BB Riverboats and the 20th anniversary of the Belle of Cincinnati, the fleet’s signature vessel.

He soon found out that his motto, and the fact that the restaurant was a converted steamboat, confused his customers into thinking that the Mike Fink was a working steamboat and went out on the river for cruises. 

He eliminated the confusion in 1979, when BB Riverboats was formed and a staff began booking cruises from the Mike Fink Restaurant.

The first cruise was on March 15, 1980 on the M/V Betty Blake. a 400 passenger sternwheeler that was leased from the Gateway Clipper Company from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.

Blake did not have a financial interest, but she was a veteran in the riverboat industry. She came from the presidency of the Delta Queen Steamboat Company, which was headquartered in Cincinnati. 

Both Ben and Betty have passed on, but their portraits are displayed on the Belle of Cincinnati, which is now the flagship of BB Riverboats’ fleet of riverboats.

The Bernstein grandchildren prepare to christen the River’s Edge facility.

Ben Bernstein passed the business down to Alan and along with wife Mary, daughter Terri and son Ben, the family tradition lives on and is poised for the next generation as well. 

“My father sort of handed this to me, he was a great guy, my best friend and a great Northern Kentuckian,” Bernstein said. “I know my daughter, son and grandkids are going to continue on and do the same.”

The Bernstein grandchildren, Emma Stewart, Elam Bernstein, Joey Krause and Andrea Grizzell, participated in the christening.

Bernstein said a christening is a time-honored tradition in the maritime business.

“They christen military ships, merchant ships and we’ve taken it to the inland waters,” Bernstein said. “Almost everybody christens their new boat. It’s a symbol of good luck and safe operation.”

Terri Voet, the longest-tenured employee with BB Riverboats at 39 years, said the Bernsteins have always treat the staff like family.

“It’s a fantastic family and it’s a great job,” Voet said. “I couldn’t say anything better about it or them; the Bernsteins are wonderful people.”

A view of the Cincinnati skyline from the deck of the River’s Edge.

Other high points in BB Riverboats history include being awarded the exclusive rights for riverboat cruises in the 1982 World’s Fair in Knoxville, Tennessee, and participating as a key component in all of the “Tall Stacks” festivals.

The Bernstein family expertise goes beyond hospitality.

Alan and Terri are riverboat captains and the family is often called upon by local groups, media outlets, and government agencies to solve problems, answer questions, or offer advice for events or issues on the Ohio River.

Alan said it’s rewarding to know that the addition of River’s Edge and the new dock facility have the family’s legacy business positioned to continue as a fixture on the region’s riverfront.

Contact Mark Hansel at mark.hansel@nkytrib.com

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One Comment

  1. jack combs says:

    Great business and family!

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