Culture News

Tempe's Gringo Star Street Bar Bringing Classic Arcade Thrills to Mill Avenue Next Month

The nightlife scene along Mill Avenue in Tempe isn't really much of a haven for the button-pounding and joystick-loving crowd, as far as gaming action goes, save for those Golden Tee and bar-top touchscreen things found at most watering holes.

That will change in a few weeks when Gringo Star Street Bar debuts at the intersection of Mill and Fifth Street and brings with more than a dozen arcade games, skeeball, and even some old-school home consoles.

See also: - Downtown Phoenix's ZapCon Expands to Include Retro Gaming Documentaries and a Performance By The Minibosses - Ten Favorite Arcades in Metro Phoenix

Stephen Sperry, one of the entrepreneurs behind Gringo Star's, told Jackalope Ranch that the bar is tentatively scheduled to open in early May and will have a total of 15 games installed.

"These are games from the '80s and early '90s," Sperry says. "They used to kill it and kinda went out of style but now are coming back in."

Among the titles that Gringo Star patrons can pump quarters (no swipeable cards here) into are some of the greatest hits of the arcade world, including Street Fighter II, The Simpsons, NBA Jam, and Mortal Kombat 3. Sperry says that proprietors are planning nights when every arcade game in the place will be set to free-play mode.

It wouldn't be a true arcade without skeeball, which is why Gringo Star also will have six different machines available. Two will be "Beer Ball" variants, which are souped-up versions of skeeball boasting video screens, T-shirts and free shots as prizes, and head-to-head and tournament modes for patrons interested in battling with their drinking buddies.

Sperry says that four booths will be set up at one end of Gringo Star's main room and each will be equipped with large flat-screen TVs and either a Nintendo 64 or Super Nintendo system connected for those who want to get all freaked out like that one pajama-clad kid and relive the glory days of Super Mario World, GoldenEye, and Banjo and Kazooie. Games can be checked out for free from the bar in exchange for a photo ID and credit card.

Gringo Star is the brainchild of veterans of the local night scene, including Sperry's fellow partners Sonny Thurman and Hartley Rodie, all of whom are involved American Junkie in Scottsdale. Restaurateur Julian Wright of Canteen and Handlebar fame, as well as Ryan Jocque (also of American Junkie) and Smashboxx/Dollhouse Cocktail Lounge's Chad Landau are also part of the project.

"We're all Scottsdale guys, so we're kinda bringing a little more of Scottsdale to Mill in terms of doing some off-night parties and other things," Sperry says.

Surrounding Gringo Star's gaming bacchanal will be walls covered with what Sperry calls "Banksy-style art," as well as grafitti and urban art murals, and food truck-style windows serving street eats, and even a gigantic Lite-Brite that patrons can play with. Phoenix native and painter Steve Hickok will be creating a few wall pieces for Gringo Star in the coming weeks and Sperry mentioned that local artists and muralists will be tapped to help decorate the interior as well.

"Our concept is street food, street art, and a vintage arcade kinda all mixed into one place," he says.

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Benjamin Leatherman is a staff writer at Phoenix New Times. He covers local nightlife, music, culture, geekery, and fringe pursuits.