Ariel Bracamonte had one thing in mind when he started envisioning Stardust Pinbar, the new David Bowie-inspired pinball lounge he co-owns in downtown Phoenix.
"I wanted people to have fun here, plain and simple,” Bracamonte says.
Hence all the amusing and unique aspects of the spot, including a secret entrance, a ’70s-style illuminated disco dance floor, a furry DJ booth, Bowie-esque decor, and plenty of pinball machines that patrons can play.
“It’s just pure fun in here,” Bracamonte says. “It’s stuff that nobody’s ever done before.”
That’s certainly an accurate statement. Stardust Pinbar, which is scheduled to open this weekend, is the Valley’s first pinball lounge, not to mention the only one influenced by the late David Bowie and featuring a dance floor straight out of Saturday Night Fever.
Like we said, it’s going to be unique.
Bracamonte, who partnered with local restaurateur Tucker Woodbury and local developer Chuckie Duff on Stardust Pinbar, says the 15-by-15-foot light-up dance floor was another silly idea they had.
“We just thought it would be funny to have a floor like that for people to dance on,” Bracamonte says. “It lights up in all kinds of crazy ways and is just fun.”
And Stardust Pinbar patrons can start busting moves on the dance floor on Saturday, August 10, during its soft opening. (The official grand opening will happen on Friday, August 16.) But first, they’ll have to find their way inside.
Stardust Pinbar is located in the same downtown building as popular concert joint The Van Buren and is situated next door to the newly opened Ziggy’s Pizza, which Bracamonte and his partners also own. (Both spots are a reference to Bowie and his legendary character Ziggy Stardust.)
To get into Stardust Pinbar, patrons will have to go through swinging double doors and down a small hallway to what looks like the door to Ziggy’s walk-in refrigerator. They won’t find any pizza fixings inside, as the door leads straight to the lounge.
“It’s part of the experience. You don't know if you're supposed to be back there or not, like you’re walking into our fridge,” Bracamonte says. “We’ll have plastic curtains on the other side to make it look like a real walk-in cooler.”
Once they’re past the fridge fake-out, patrons will enter a darkened lounge that’s big on both David Bowie and pinball.
Ziggy Stardust artwork and posters decorate one wall while another is covered by an array of playfields from vintage pinball games that are illuminated by a constantly changing stream of rainbow-colored lights.
"It looks really cool," Bracamonte says. "The backlighting helps make all the colors on the playfields stand out."
There are more than dozen machines set up for play inside the lounge, including titles like Cirqus Voltaire, Arabian Nights, Monster Bash, The Beatles, Addams Family, Junkyard, Centaur, and The Simpsons.
Bracamonte, who also co-owns Cobra Arcade Bar in Tucson and downtown Phoenix, brought in all the games and is planning to have more available as time goes on.
"I’ve got about five more machines and I'm going to rearrange things in here a little bit to add them all in," he says. "My goal was 20 ... I have 25 games total and they're all good titles. Some newer stuff, some classics."
Games will cost anywhere from $.50 to $1 to play. Bracamonte says they're also going to have custom-made Stardust Pinbar tokens available to use (although the machines will also accept regular quarters).
A large bar at one end of the lounge features more than 8,500 pinballs encased in the glass bar top. And the seats of each of the bar stools are covered with the sort of glittery silver vinyl that would make Ziggy Stardust proud.
The cocktail menu will include drinks inspired by rock 'n' roll, Bowie, and other '70s and '80s influences, including one called The Diamond Dog. There will also be the usual mix of beer, booze, and luxe libations.
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Bracamonte thinks fans of Bowie and pinball will be into what the lounge offers.
“There are a lot people who are into both, and they’re also into having a good time,” Bracamonte says. “But I hope a lot of people dig the joint. I'm hoping it will turn out to be an everybody kind of place.”
401 West Van Buren St., Suite C, 602-354-2931
Hours: 4 p.m. to 2 a.m., daily (starting August 10)