Game on!

Hey Asheville — ready to play the games of your youth while getting snookered on adult beverages? Want to play BurgerTime, Centipede and Asteroids, far, far away from the screaming rugrat-inhabited land of Chuck E. Cheese?

Arcade Asheville opens Friday, Dec. 17, ready to capitalize on a nostalgia for all things ‘80s. During its construction in the Pack Square building vacated by Joli Rouge, marketing manager Kelly Gold and owners Joshua Aaron and Leonard Poe generated a bit of a buzz over the bar through a savvyon-line and word-of-mouth marketing campaign. With a pretty appealing concept at the heart of the venture, Arcade Asheville nearly promotes itself.

And people are talking. While arcade bars are already gaining traction elsewhere, this will be the first of its kind in Asheville. This version will offer a pretty slick juxtaposition of a jangling arcade atmosphere and the sleek style the decor projects, says Gold. "We wanted this to be a really sexy bar so that it wasn't just a cheesy arcade, but also a really cool hang out. We've tried to make everything really dark and really sexy." 

True, even in the daytime, Arcade radiates sex appeal, boasting two open levels of swank and a lofty, urban vibe. There's enough dark gray tones and stainless steel, concrete and glass to make Arcade feel sophisticated yet grittily modern, but it's all brightened up with splashes of toned-down ‘80s aquas and pinks for a touch of throwback. Then throw in the games! The noise! Tokens and skeeball and jangling pinball and Super Mario at the bar! It's hard not to regress a couple of decades and squee a bit with anticipation.

Isn't it going to be going to be a little … well, loud, Xpress wonders? "Yes," says Gold with a broad grin. "And Danny Kadar did the sound system (Kadar is a sound engineer and producer who's worked with Band of Horses, My Morning Jacket and others). It sounds like this whole building is going to rattle apart, but in the warmest, most wonderful way."

It may even be a bit jarring to the senses once it's all in full swing. There's so much swank versus retro-cheese, noisy nerdy indulgence up against sophisticated, practiced cool. It's just as easy to envision socialite types in the space as it is to imagine geeky hipsters juking and jiving at the bar, game controllers in hand, fully immersed in the task of navigating Mario and Luigi through castles and caverns on the wide screens on the wall. Oh, yeah, that's going to happen.

"It will be fully wired with old-school Nintendo and all that stuff so that you can sit at the bar and play games," says Aaron. Is that the result of the dreams of a barely recovered video game addict? Actually no. "I was never really into games growing up, so I feel like I'm kind of making up for lost time," says Aaron. But mostly? He knows that his generation — some call it the "me" generation — just wants all their stuff back. "The kids that were playing these games in the ‘80s are now 30 and 40 years old," he says. "They've got money now, and they want all of the stuff that mom cleaned out of the attic and threw out."

On top of that, they probably also want a drink.

Arcade Asheville is located at 130 College St. in downtown Asheville. It will be open 7 days a week from 11 a.m. until late, offering light fare, wine, beer and liquor. Though Arcade will be family friendly during the day, it will be 21 and over after 9 p.m. For more information, visit the Arcade Asheville Facebook page. Official website coming soon.

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2 thoughts on “Game on!

  1. Mackensy Lunsford

    Update: Due to inclement weather in the beginning of this week, Arcade’s opening day has been delayed. From the bar’s Facebook page: “Arcade Asheville would like to let all of our friends know that due to weather conditions throwing a monkey wrench into our plans earlier in the week, we will NOT be opening this weekend. Don’t fret, though! It only set us back a few days and we’ll be open next week-keep checking here for updates.”

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