After visiting barcades all over the country, we finally have our own right here in Oklahoma City: the FlashBack RetroPub. Last Friday, Susan and I attended the pub’s official grand opening.
That’s not my DeLorean, but it is my 8-bit tie…
The FlashBack RetroPub is at 814 West Sheridan, several blocks away from Bricktown. There are a few trendy businesses and restaurants nearby, but it’s also less than a block from the City Rescue Mission and right down the street from the scariest McDonald’s I’ve ever set foot in. It will be interesting to see how this part of town develops over time.
There are a few different business models for modern arcades: there’s the “pizzacade,” which combines food with arcade games, the “pay-at-the-door-cade,” where gamers can pay one entry price and play games all day long, and then there’s the “barcade,” establishments that combine arcade gaming with a full bar. FlashBack RetroPub is definitely a barcade, as we were carded at the door.
The front half of the pub is where the bar and arcade games are. Then there’s the dance floor, DJ booth and lounge area, the restrooms, and an unused area that I suspect will have seating in it soon.
A rough guess, I’d say the pub has 30 arcade games. The front right is loaded with classics (Robotron, Defender, Centipede, etc) and the rest of the machines run down the opposite wall. The oldest game I remember was Asteroids and the newest was NBA Jam, with most of the machines belonging to the awesome 80s. Directly across from the games was the bar, with bar tables standing between the two. Those tables became a problem later in the evening.
With a couple of drinks in hand, we took a few bills over to the change machine. “OUT OF ORDER.” We then went back to the bar and bought five dollars worth of tokens. Then we went back to the machines and found most of them had dozens of free credits on them. So, there was a little confusion there.
Beyond the bar and the games was the dance floor, the DJ booth (that giant boom box) and a lounge area. Some of the benches had signs on them saying they were reserved for VIPs. As the crowd piled in, all available seats were taken very quickly.
My biggest complaint with the place was with the games. Centipede and Tetris, Susan’s two favorite games, were powered off. Popeye couldn’t punch. Kung-Fu Master couldn’t punch. Player Two’s joystick on Mario Bros. didn’t work. Donkey Kong didn’t have sound. The joystick on Zaxxon was a little wonky. At least ten of the machines we tried had serious issues, which is 1/3 of their machines (and we weren’t able to try them all).
The other problem we had was this:
As people continued to file in, we got stuck. We couldn’t get to the games, we couldn’t get to the bar, we couldn’t even get out. It took us a solid ten minutes to make our way from the back of the pub to the front. Granted, the place will not usually be this crowded, but the bar tables in between the machines and the bar completely stopped foot traffic. Worse, it blocked access to the bar, which prevented us from getting more drinks or tokens.
One thing this place has going for it are the employees. We ordered drinks from two or three different bartenders and each one was super nice. The two doormen were also overly polite, thanking us for coming in. I suspect in the near future a few changes might be made to the floor plan to help the crowd flow. As long as they can get (and keep) the games in working order, it looks to me like they might have a winning combination.
FlashBack RetroPub, a great place to go party like it’s 1999. Er, 1989.