Cobra Arcade Bar to Open in Early January in Downtown Phoenix

Downtown Phoenix nightlife fans, get ready to get your game on. That’s because Cobra Arcade Bar is getting ready to open.

The long-awaited and much-anticipated arts district nightspot, which will feature several dozen arcade classics and a full bar, will finally open its doors and power up its games in early January.

Co-owner Ariel Bracamonte told New Times that he anticipates the Cobra will be open to the public “sometime in the next week or two” after he and other behind the scenes finish readying the place, which is located on Second Street south of Roosevelt Row, for its debut.

“We’re almost there,” says Bracamonte, who collects and repairs classic arcade games. “I've been working on this nonstop for years. I haven't worked a normal job in like a year. All I've been doing is fixing machines for this. I'm definitely getting excited.”

He isn’t the only one as many downtown residents have been eagerly awaiting Cobra’s opening over the last several months, as evidenced by many of the posts to its Facebook page.

Many are excited by the prospect that downtown Phoenix will finally get a full-fledged bar and arcade of its own. The concept, which mixes classic arcade games with the usual thrills of a bar, has been a big trend in recent years, resulting in such popular spots as Ground Kontrol in Portland, The 1up in Denver, EightyTwo in L.A., and the original Barcade in Brooklyn.

And from the looks of it, Cobra will be on par with any of these spots. Bracamonte plans to fill the 3,300 square-foot property, which is next door to FilmBar, with around 40 different arcade classics from his personal collection. The games will be arranged throughout the spot around its island bar, which is situated underneath a cluster of three-dozen orange cylinders that fittingly resemble the warp zone pipes from Nintendo’s legendary Super Mario Bros. to a degree.

“Basically its just games all around the walls and the bar in the center. So never will you feel like you're not in an arcade, which was the idea,” Bracamonte says. “But there's still enough booths on the side so if you don't like arcades you can still chill out.”

Bracamonte says it’s been a challenge to find room in the space as many games as possible.

“I'm trying to fit as many as I can without it being uncomfortable, because you obviously need space for two or more people to play,” he says.

As such, he plans to constantly rotate the selection at Cobra on a regular basis, choosing games from his personal collection of more than 100 different titles.

“We plan on rotating 'em to keep it fresh. Maybe every month we pull five out and put five new ones in. but always keep a good classic stream,” he says. “But I think we're going to have a good mix of games that you know and games that you've forgot about that you get to run into. That's my idea of it, you know, just to keep it real fun."

And that means more than just the usual offerings of Ms. Pac-Man and Galaga that’s often found at certain bars around the Valley. For instance, he’s planning on bringing in Atari’s 1983 classic Star Wars.

“You'll get some really fun games. Like I'm putting Star Wars in there. Most people have never played that game,” Bracamonte says. “Most people have never, ever played a vector game. And its fun. Tempest is another one that will go in rotation.”

Don’t expect to find any skeeball machines at Cobra, however.

“We tried but I don't think we have the square footage for it,” he says. “Skeeball is fun but I think we'd rather have games for now.”

Cobra is a project that’s been in the works for several years – and it hasn’t been an easy gestation. Bracamonte, who collects and repairs classic arcade games, has been working on the spot since 2012 and has dealt with any number of issues and problems along the way, including finding an ideal location, securing funding, and obtaining a liquor license.

He definitely found the right spot, considering Cobra is situated next door to FilmBar, across the street from Angels Trumpet, and a couple of blocks from First Friday epicenter Roosevelt Row.

“I think we're really going to tie in that corner. You know, make it like a hub. You've got Milk Bar right there, you've got Moira [Sushi],” he says. “So really it will be a little hub, like a destination spot, where you can float around to different bars.”

Games will run on tokens, each bearing the Cobra logo. Bracamonte is also planning to have weekly events like tournaments and competitions on Sundays and “Free Play Tuesdays” where patrons won’t need tokens at all. There might even be a few DJ nights.

“The bar's going to have some fun stuff going on,” Bracamonte says. “I just want people to experience the games.”
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Benjamin Leatherman is a staff writer at Phoenix New Times. He covers local nightlife, music, culture, geekery, and fringe pursuits.