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Artcade Lounge Finds a Home in Downtown Phoenix and Will Open Later This Year

Invading a downtown Phoenix space in the months ahead.
Invading a downtown Phoenix space in the months ahead.
Courtesy of Artcade Lounge

Local gamers, start digging through couch cushions and hoarding every quarter possible. You're gonna need 'em a couple of months from now when the Artcade Lounge opens its doors in downtown Phoenix

Ariel Bracamonte and Nico Paredes, the pair behind the popular Artcade Show earlier this year (which featured vintage games used as canvases for local artists), announced Wednesday that they've found a location for a similarly themed arcade/nightspot concept. And by happenstance, it's the exact same spot where the Artcade exhibition took place.

See Also: - The Artcade Show Opens Tonight at Parazol Studios in Downtown Phoenix - Five of Our Favorite Arcade Games From ZapCon - Ten Favorite Arcades in Metro Phoenix

The pair posted on Facebook on Wednesday that they secured the downtown space formerly occupied by Parazol Studios, the host of the one-night video games-meets-urban art exhibition during February's First Friday, as the home of Artcade Lounge.

"It must be fate!!!" the pair stated via Facebook.

Maybe so, but it came after more than five months of hunting for a place to house the combination arcade, nightspot, and gallery. Back when Paredes and Bracamonte first announced the Artcade Show in late December, they told Jackalope Ranch that the exhibition would serve as a prelude and interest-builder to the Artcade Lounge spot itself, which they've been hoping to launch for more than two years now.

Since then, the pair checked out many potential venues throughout downtown for months as the location of Artcade Lounge, which at onetime was going to be called "El Barcade," until they landed the former home of multipurpose arts/event venue Parazol Studios.

Paredes told Jackalope Ranch via Facebook chat Wednesday night that "it feels great" to finally have a space for Artcade Lounge locked down.

"You know, we're just two downtown rats that just wanted to open something cool down here and basically be our own bosses," Paredes states. "We invested our life savings into it, which by other place's standard is basically peanuts, so we ran into trouble finding something we could afford." 

Local gamers play titles spruced up by Chris Rupp, Luis Keys, and Lalo Cota at February's Artcade Show
Local gamers play titles spruced up by Chris Rupp, Luis Keys, and Lalo Cota at February's Artcade Show
Diana Lustig

The 2,500-square-foot property at Pierce and Seventh streets, which is right next door to Space 55, will house anywhere from 30 to 35 games, including many of the titles redecorated by local creatives like Spencer Hibert, Lalo Cota, and Chris Rupp that were featured in the Artcade Show and April's ZapCon.

According to Paredes, before they fire up said arcade games for public consumption, there's "still lots more to be done." (Hence the fact they haven't announced an exact opening date as of yet, other than in "the next couple of months.")

Paredes told Jackalope Ranch they'll be putting in furnishings like tables, seating, a bar, and maybe a DJ booth/performance area. Space, he explains, is at a premium.

"We're going to try real hard to have [a booth or stage], but since the space is so small we may have to do away with that," Paredes says. "It all depends on how creative we can get with the space."

That includes where to place the games.

"Since the Artcade [cabinets] need space to be viewed it's gonna be difficult to find space," Paredes says.

Also on the pair's checklist in the weeks and months ahead is deciding whether to get a full-on liquor license or just going for the beer and wine one, expanding the current bathroom and adding a second water closet (a municipal prerequisite for serving any sort of adult beverages), and arranging for local artists/muralists to help spruce up the décor.

"I already have a couple of downtown artists lined up to do the big [outside] wall facing west," Paredes states.

He adds that "a mural kinda makes a impact when you drive by a place and it's a blank wall, then a week later it's got this cool mural on it."

In addition to the customized cabinets from the Artcade Show, Paredes and Bracamonte hope to make some of the classics that have been in storage and "didn't make it out to the show or ZapCon" available for play once the venue is open, such as Smash TV, Tempest, Asteroids Deluxe, and Golden Axe.

As we reported in February, the pair have spent the past two years accruing and refurbishing a collection of more than 50 games with the goal of one day owning an arcade of their own.

And though the exact debut date of their dream project hasn't been determined, once that day comes to pass, each of the games in Artcade Lounge will cost only a quarter to play. Paredes and Bracamonte also plan on rotating a portion of Artcade Lounge's games in and out from time to time. There's also a possibility, Paredes explains, that some of the arcade classics may also get the local artist treatment. 

Painter Angel Diaz's redesigned A.P.B. cabinet get played at February's Artcade Show.
Painter Angel Diaz's redesigned A.P.B. cabinet get played at February's Artcade Show.
Diana Lustig

"I'm sure we'll have a few more artists get down on some cabinets but a lot of the ones [from the Artcade Show] that are left are real classics and we want to respect the original artwork on them," he states.

They're also hoping to potentially add some pinball units, skeeball games, and a pool table.

However, unlike at other local joints of a nightlife bent that offer pixelated and electrified distractions, you won't find such things as a disco ball, high-tech redemption games, prizes for tickets, or pricey drinks.

Instead, Paredes says, you can save your coin for all the retro titles straight outta video game history, since "there won't [be a] cover, it's a quarter a game, [and] no-high priced beer. Artcade Lounge's proprietors are also planning various free-play nights, tournaments, art shows, and movie screenings.

"We really just want you to come out and have fun with us, get to know the local artists and engage in friendly competition," Paredes states. 

A new-and-improved Punch-Out!! gets played at the Artcade Show in February.
A new-and-improved Punch-Out!! gets played at the Artcade Show in February.
Diana Lustig

The pair are hoping to keep the costs low at Artcade Lounge, he adds.

"The Roosevelt area is getting ridiculously overpriced and we just needed a place were we could feel comfortable. We want to be here for a very long time so we did not want to set ourselves up for failure right off the bat with outrageous overhead costs," Paredes writes. "We believe we have found a perfect spot to begin [and] we'll see how it goes."

Retro arcades with a nightlife chaser that are located in and around hip havens have done well in other big cities, like the renowned Barcade in the Williamsburg portion of Brooklyn, the Emporium in Chicago's Wicker Park, or Portland's Ground Kontrol.

And though we felt a little like Donkey Kong flinging barrels upon little Mario by posing such a question, we asked Paredes it they're at all worried if Pierce and Seventh is too far afield from the First Friday epicenter of Roosevelt Row.

"We're not too worried about that," Paredes replied. "I think if we do things right, we can become a destination spot. I hope we can have the support of all the downtown Phoenix community -- God knows we will owe it all to them," he says. "Places like FilmBar, Crescent, and Bikini are not necessarily on the First Friday epicenter, but they manage to get the support from the real downtown community."

Right now is a perfect time for opening anything having to do with retro arcades in the Valley, what with the success of the Artcade Show and ZapCon, the recent opening of Gringo Star in Tempe, as well as and the impending debut of "The Art of Video Games" exhibition at Phoenix Art Museum next month.

Paredes believes that Artcade Lounge will fit well in the throwback gaming zeitgeist.

"I really think it is, it's time for the real nostalgic chill spot to appear. This will be a place that will truly be part of our community," he states. "Yes, we are looking to this as our business, but it is so much more than that. I feel like this place is going to be like me inviting all of my friends to my house for some games and beer."

More information on the Artcade Lounge and its opening can be found via its Facebook page.

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