In a true blast from the past, original video game machines from the ’80s and ’90s will soon be available at an arcade-bar in Kennewick.
“It hits over a lot of generations for playing these things. It’s a wide spectrum of people as far as who we can cater to,” said Michael Miller, one of the co-owners of Level Up Arcade Bar, opening in early spring at 1021 N. Columbia Center Blvd., Suite 210, in Kennewick.
The bar will fill the empty space above Porter’s Real Barbecue, once home to Fire Artisan Pizza and, most recently, FrankenBurger’s Fry Lab. It will share a parking lot with Proof Gastropub, which Miller also owns.
Level Up will be open late nights, serving drinks and offering entertainment with 20 to 25 vintage games like “Ms. Pac-Man,” “Frogger,” “Donkey Kong” and “Galaga.” These aren’t revamped versions of the originals; these machines are the originals.
“A guy we found on eBay provides games for concepts like these,” Miller said. “He has about 150 games in his collection and he will deliver and set them up for you.”
Level Up also will install games from the ’90s, with old-school favorites like “Mortal Kombat,” “X-Men,” “NBA Jam” and “NFL Blitz.”
Miller also owns Stick+Stone in Richland and was an original owner of the yogurt shop Finnegan Frost before selling it to the owners of Ethos Bakery.
This is Miller’s first partnership with Gary and Julie Grant, who share ownership of half of the business. Miller once worked with Gary at Gesa Credit Union and approached him about securing financing for the project.
Miller said Gary offered to back the project as a partner, and Level Up Arcade Bar was soon powered up.
“I grew up playing video games and scrounging every quarter I could find to plug into our local arcade (in Moses Lake it was a gas station) during the ’80s,” Gary said. “I also put myself through college bartending and it was the most fun I have ever had at a job. Having an arcade bar is absolutely the best of both worlds for me. When Michael approached me and said that he was thinking about opening a barcade, I immediately said, ‘Yes, I’m in! How much do you need?’ ”
The build-out of the bar is being done by the building’s owner and began in mid-December. The 2,800-square-foot space has a targeted opening of mid-March.
Level Up will feature a full bar, including 24 beers, with rotating taps and wine. Due to the tenant agreement with Porter’s, Level Up cannot sell food but will allow it to be brought in.
This could mean scheduled deliveries across the parking lot from Proof Gastropub, benefiting both businesses.
The arcade-bar expects to hold a nightclub license for alcohol sales and will be a 21-and-over establishment most days, but owners hope to offer a family day Sunday afternoons to allow those of all ages to experience classic versions of games like “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles,” “Ivan Stewart’s Super Off Road” and “Tapper.” There also will be some newer games, pinball and skee ball available, but it’s not going to be like some national establishments that include rows and rows of video games.
“Dave and Buster’s is more ticket-centered where you’re trying to win prizes, but this is more about the style of the era where you use a quarter or a token to play for fun,” Miller said.
Owners have invested about $150,000 into the bar’s opening, including all the games. Miller expects to cross train some current Proof employees to work at Level Up, and figures seven to 10 people will be employed in all.
The bar will be open from 4 p.m. to 2 a.m. weekends, and likely from 4 to 11 p.m. weekdays. Family days would be from noon to 4 p.m. Sundays only.
The term “barcade” is trademarked and cannot be used to describe the Kennewick business, but the hope is that Level Up will provide more than a typical watering hole where the focus is on the drinks only.
“This is kind of like, ‘Let’s go have a drink, but also have fun, be social, have a date night,’ ” Miller said. Level Up will feature décor highlighting ’80s and ’90s pop culture icons like Hulk Hogan, Mr. T and the Gremlins. Drinks will coincide with this theme as well.”
Miller can see Level Up from his restaurant just south of the building and has big expectations for bringing a new concept to the Tri-Cities.
“I’d been looking at that space since we opened, trying to figure out what could go there. It has great visibility. We are so chain (restaurant)-driven here, I’m hoping to change that culture,” he said.
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