(Topic ID: 216090)

Looking for Pinball "Barcade" owners for advice


By lord_norm

11 months ago



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  • 60 posts
  • 34 Pinsiders participating
  • Latest reply 11 months ago by Whysnow
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    #1 11 months ago

    I am sure you have all heard this before, but i am about to sell some property and open up a pinball barcade. It will only have beer and wine due to the expense of a full liquor license. Looking to have about 10 machines, 1 or 2 pool tables and a bar for drinks...

    Any advice would be much appreciated!

    #2 11 months ago

    My experience is limited but remember it's the beer/wine that will keep you in business. The pins can attract folks and maybe even keep some loyal customers but they won't be where the profit is.

    #3 11 months ago

    Don’t use barcade in your name...
    It’s strongly copyrighted.

    #4 11 months ago
    Quoted from FlippyD:

    My experience is limited but remember it's the beer/wine that will keep you in business. The pins can attract folks and maybe even keep some loyal customers but they won't be where the profit is.

    I can’t repeat this enough, the pins are an attraction but if the bar, food, ambience are bad forget it. Not being able to get a vodka tonic might be a tough pill too.

    Not tying to discourage, just basing it off the barcade I go to and the stuff I don’t like about it and why I have to drag my wife there instead of her wanting to go to the bar.

    #5 11 months ago

    If you have no experience of running a bar, you are probably going to fail unless you get someone with experience in to manage/run it initially and show you how to do it properly. Also it is very very hard work.

    #6 11 months ago

    For beer, make sure you have some good crafts on tap to attract the hipsters. You also need your classics like PBR, Natty, Bud light, etc.

    You need to generate foot traffic. So promotion is going to be your friend. Blow it up on social media. Try to have a killer happy hour.

    Next, you need to reach out to your local APA/BCA/TAP pool league representative and get a couple of pool teams to use your location for league. This will generate guaranteed customers every week. If you can get 2 teams to choose your place as a home location, this will get you about 20-25 people each week shooting pool league.

    Pinball league! You are going to need to promote and run a pinball league to attract patrons.

    Skee Ball league! In my area, skee Ball leagues are all the rage with the college crowd. Again you need to draw patrons to your establishment.

    Entertainment! Another way to draw patrons in. You really need to mix it up here. Wednesday’s karaoke. Thursday’s open mic or comedy night. Friday’s local bands. Saturday’s assorted DJ’s.

    The games. You need more than just pins. You have to have at minimum 5-7 classics like pac man, Galaga, dig dug, mortal kombat, street fighter and NBA Jam. Also do you plan on going free play or coin drop?

    Just a few thoughts for you.

    11
    #7 11 months ago

    I owned a bar in Orlando for much of the 00's. We had a NIB Simpsons Pinball Party.

    It's a crazy tough business. This is not something you can just set up, and let it 'run itself'.

    Prepare to forfeit your personal life.
    Prepare to sleep very little.
    Prepare to deal with crazy people on a daily basis.
    Prepare to break up fights.
    Prepare to deal with insane amounts of peoples' personal drama.
    Prepare to become comfortable with generally seeing people at their worst behavior.
    If you decide to bartend yourself, prepare to assume the duties of a de-facto pharmacist, clergyman, and therapist all at the same time.
    Prepare to constantly be on the lookout for employees who will tell themselves that giving away free drinks to their friends SOMEHOW ISN'T stealing from you.
    Prepare to have a very comprehensive (and expensive) Liquor Liability Insurance policy, so you don't have to worry about defending yourself and your business against folks who will actually try to SUE YOU for serving them alcohol before they made the poor decision to get behind the wheel of a vehicle.

    There are a thousand more points I could list, but my PTSD is starting to kick in already.

    #8 11 months ago

    I'd like to repeat everything said above...... but for emphasis, when spinning up my current location I used the word "barcade" in a newspaper article and within days got legal emails from the people that have the trademark on that term. Not only don't use it in your location name but never actually use the word in a written media.

    #9 11 months ago

    Prey tell...who owns the term “barcade”?

    -1
    #10 11 months ago
    Quoted from Blitzburgh99:

    Prey tell...who owns the term “barcade”?

    PRAY tell........why, it's the Barcade Company, of course!

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Barcade

    #11 11 months ago

    Locally, we're started seeing a great trend of Pins on location. There are two brewery's that I know of that have a handful of pins, and a bar with food that has about 10 machines.

    Every time I go to one of those places, people are at the bar or tables. I've seen maybe one or two people (other than myself) playing pinball.

    Maybe you can talk to a local brewery about putting some pins in their building to see how it goes first without all the upfront cost of running your own business. Pretty sure that's what's going on at these places.

    #12 11 months ago

    Yeah, doing the whole "I'm gonna do a barcade" thing is not a great idea. Even our really initially successful barcade ended up back as a straight bar. In our case the bar owner didn't help, but it's really difficult to keep it sustained. To keep folks coming in, you need to switch up machines routinely. You've got to keep them in A1 shape, even if parts are hard to find and idiots break them repeatedly. You've got to have someone to fix them seven days a week. This is expensive. There's a reason Dave and Buster's call their game area the million dollar midway. If you want to open a bar, that's fine, but open a bar and have a few games. Don't open a barcade.

    I agree local microbreweries are great pin locations. Just make sure they don't brew in the same room as the pins are in.

    #13 11 months ago

    Oh, and don't forget you can't have a modern jukebox. Touchtunes sells to operators with 50 or more locations only.

    #14 11 months ago
    Quoted from woody24:

    Locally, we're started seeing a great trend of Pins on location. There are two brewery's that I know of that have a handful of pins, and a bar with food that has about 10 machines.
    Every time I go to one of those places, people are at the bar or tables. I've seen maybe one or two people (other than myself) playing pinball.
    Maybe you can talk to a local brewery about putting some pins in their building to see how it goes first without all the upfront cost of running your own business. Pretty sure that's what's going on at these places.

    What this guy said. My location is at a local brewery owned by friends of mine. I get free rent and 100% of the coin drop and I'm still "losing" money. Note the quotes. The purpose of this location is to help my friends sell beer and to allow me to expand my hobby to a slightly absurd level while writing off my hobby on my taxes. I'll make a profit this year but it won't be enough to pay myself minimum wage for the hours invested. But since I'm there all the time enjoying their product anyway.... basic maintenance gives me something to do while enjoying a craft beer. However, I need to be sober for serious repairs.

    Yes, there is a resurgence of pinball going on, and it's awesome, but pinball is not a universal fix it for all the challenges that come with operating a bar. If I were you I'd do a tour or every "barcade" in a large radius and talk to their owners and try to get lessons learned and see if it's for you.

    But on a positive note, best of luck, hope it works out.

    #15 11 months ago

    My friends own the bar, I've added 10 pinball machines to it over the past year. We started with one and it grew fast. I've worked in bars for about 15 years myself, but the cost of a license in my state is prohibitive to opening my own place. We have both benefited. Two nights a week we have scheduled events for pinball that bring in about 20 people most of which are eating and drinking, and I've found some free space in my house and have even bought two pins now specifically for the location. Another benefit is a different bar in town has now contacted me about putting some games there.

    #16 11 months ago

    As has been said, only do this if you are prepared to make your living by running a bar. That is going to 95% of the work.

    The pins are just a sideshow and a reason for people to choose your bar over someone else's.

    #17 11 months ago

    My biggest concern about opening. What happens if someone spills a beer on a 5 thousand dollar machine? What if some ass gets mad at a bad drain and smashes the glass? Alchohol can bring out the bad in people so both of the above could happen. How would you deal with this?

    Last question all on free play to attract people in to buy other stuff or gouge them with dollar games?

    The first two questions would make me scared to have anything really nice in there but hey maybe I am paranoid.

    #18 11 months ago
    Quoted from starbase:

    My biggest concern about opening. What happens if someone spills a beer on a 5 thousand dollar machine? What if some ass gets mad at a bad drain and smashes the glass? Alchohol can bring out the bad in people so both of the above could happen. How would you deal with this?
    Last question all on free play to attract people in to buy other stuff or gouge them with dollar games?
    The first two questions would make me scared to have anything really nice in there but hey maybe I am paranoid.

    I had a full beer spilled on my MMRLE glass on location once. It cleaned up just fine. Buy you're right, damage is a concern but fortunately, if you can avoid chimp flipping kids, modern pinballs survive just fine. At my locations at least.

    #19 11 months ago

    I thought I'd be on a yacht sipping beers with the ladies by now, but sadly, that's not the case. It's work, a lot of work. Long, long days. But I'm living the dream!

    17854909_637932886413171_5940807213301705448_o (resized).jpg

    #20 11 months ago

    Oh, and if you have TVs, and you want to show NFL games (even just the free games on local networks...not even talking about Sunday Ticket) the fucking BMI and ASCAP music mafia may actually try to shake you down for a "Licensing Fee" for the background music the network and/or the stadium plays during broadcasts!!!!!

    INSANE!!!!

    #21 11 months ago

    Spills beer on a game? Ha. That cleanup's just sticky. Try throws up on a game, and doesn't tell anyone. Then it's gross and encrusted.

    #22 11 months ago
    Quoted from sandersj:

    However, I need to be sober for serious repairs.

    Be careful when taking advice from Rookies. Lol jk. Much love! Cheers!

    You got your answers... even though you didn’t really ask a question(s)...

    Buckle your seat-belt.

    #23 11 months ago
    Quoted from ATLpb:

    Be careful when taking advice from Rookies. Lol jk. Much love! Cheers!
    You got your answers... even though you didn’t really ask a question(s)...
    Buckle your seat-belt.

    Hah! I'll admit that I try to be sober when doing component level electronic repairs on PCBs. Little slip ups with a soldering iron or desolderer can get expensive.

    #24 11 months ago

    I think for a barcade to be successful it really has to be in the right area. There are a few in Chicago that make a lot of money, but they are in neighborhoods with tons of young people, hipsters, etc ... I live out in the burbs, and all of the ones that have tried to open up by me have failed. Whatever you do, don't sign a long term expensive lease.

    #25 11 months ago
    Quoted from gweempose:

    I think for a barcade to be successful it really has to be in the right area. There are a few in Chicago that make a lot of money, but they are in neighborhoods with tons of young people, hipsters, etc ... I live out in the burbs, and all of the ones that have tried to open up by me have failed. Whatever you do, don't sign a long term expensive lease.

    HQ downtown is the best barcade in the country. Hands down. Not even a discussion starter to compare anything else to.

    #26 11 months ago

    You also need to check with your local municipality. I know some cities have specific licensing requirements for "amusements" in which you may have to pay a fee depending on the number of machines you own/operate.

    #27 11 months ago
    Quoted from CadillacMusic:

    Oh, and don't forget you can't have a modern jukebox. Touchtunes sells to operators with 50 or more locations only.

    You can't OWN a modern jukebox. If you're a single location, they want you to support a Touchtunes (or AMI/Rowe) operator in the area that will be happy to supply you with a jukebox and split the revenue.

    #28 11 months ago

    Eh, maybe it's just us, but it'd be unlikely for us to do something like that if we didn't own the pins. We occasionally split locations with other operators, but if we're putting out pins at all, it's a conflict of interest. We want the money going into our machines, not someone else's.

    #29 11 months ago

    I wanto reiterate Touchtunes is not the only choice for present jukeboxes. AMI is more than competitive with their NGX series and their entertainment network. A person can own their own modern jukebox, if they want to pay the monthy fees and they are willing to understand the online systems. A NGX Mini for example, is around $4K in box.

    Keep in mind know your area, your patrons, operators, and laws. Start up costs can be high. Average lifespan of a "barcade" is less than 3 years before ownership change or closure.

    However, if a bar owner wants to do it right get the help from an good operator to take the hassle out of technical support, maintenance, and setup. Splits are very equitable for jukeboxes, including new equipment. Pinball is not the money maker in barcades unless that is its primary draw. Maintenance will then be high, out of necessity. The splits will also not necessarily be equal dependent on the age of the title. There are reasons why operators do not install lines of pinball machines in bars, but rather only a couple unless in a key or mega location.

    I should know, I provide installation for both.

    #30 11 months ago

    What are fees for NGX? I know TT is $75/week.

    #31 11 months ago

    I would need to ask our accountant.

    Costs significantly drop once you reach a number threshold for operation per volume. I don't remember how many we have presently switched over from the old Touchtones and Rockola (when AMI bought them out). We are still upgrading.

    The important point is that is part of the agreement between operator and owner, and can vary, hence a good operator can drastically reduce this overhead, and make it beneficial to both parties.

    #32 11 months ago

    Black Knight...are you on a bicycle, or getting open heart surgery or something? What's with these short and concise posts? Hope yer ok buddy.

    #33 11 months ago

    A bar with pinball machines is not a barcade. A barcade is a bar with pinball, arcade, skeeball, etc. A pinball bar can be successful, but it can be slow going at times and for the most part is just a bar. The primary client will be pinheads who are picky about location games and will complain about everything. This will require events to bring in clients to play and drink like tournaments, events, etc. Your primary source of income will be drinks and not pinball.

    A barcade can be very successful if in the right area and the games are not overpriced and the bar atmosphere is done correctly.

    Beer spilled on games is not a huge deal, I have beer spilled on my games every day.

    (I have 48 pins on route, 46 in barcades)

    #34 11 months ago

    Thanks for all the great responses!

    Id love to sell liquor but the license is about $100k. Hopefully i can work up to it and eventually upgrade to the full liquor license.

    I understand it needs to have a great atmosphere to keep people coming back. If you guys have some time, id love to hear ideas and opinions about the decor / paint / theme... Im sure some of you have opinions on what you enjoy the most.

    Also, I trying to figure out what the lineup of games should be, I personally would like newer stern pro's and some older 90's ones if i can afford them.

    14
    #35 11 months ago
    Quoted from lord_norm:

    I trying to figure out what the lineup of games should be, I personally would like

    Don't get the ones you like.

    Get the ones that earn.

    LTG : )

    #36 11 months ago
    Quoted from lord_norm:

    Thanks for all the great responses!
    Id love to sell liquor but the license is about $100k. Hopefully i can work up to it and eventually upgrade to the full liquor license.
    I understand it needs to have a great atmosphere to keep people coming back. If you guys have some time, id love to hear ideas and opinions about the decor / paint / theme... Im sure some of you have opinions on what you enjoy the most.
    Also, I trying to figure out what the lineup of games should be, I personally would like newer stern pro's and some older 90's ones if i can afford them.

    Where are you located? What city do you plan to open in?

    Go visit the barcades in your area to see what works. Visit them on a wed, visit them on a sat, visit them on a sun. See what works and what doesnot work.

    In my experience, pay for play is the only model that really works unless you are in a location so hot that the games are just something for people to feel hip about and you are making money on $10 beers. Games need to be well maintained and the way to do that is to charge per game. Even .25 so long as you charge. People treat the games better when they are paying and you will also mantain them better.

    one time entry fee seems to work for the huge arcades, but then again they seems to struggle w game maintainence.

    Figure out the model, sub model, that works for you and confirm what will give you the best chance of success in your region.

    I am sure plenty of us have crunched the numbers and few have undertaken it. Even fewer appear successful.

    Best of luck!

    #37 11 months ago

    I love seeing these threads and people's enthusiasm for operating pins. I fell into my locations by chance because I was basically looking for storage and my friends were looking for some games for their brewery. What started as storage has now turned into a second job. I will reiterate that I don't make any money on pins and it's barely break even. The pins cost too much, parts are expensive, the older cheap games just don't make money etc. If I accounted for the hours and hours of prepping and repairs I do, the business would be hemorrhaging money. Get insurance - I've been in my location repairing a machine and kids are just crawling inside the skeeball machine and big ball bowler and when I talk to the parents they just DGAF. It is ridiculous. Think of the worst behavior from people and then multiply it by 5. I enjoy it as there is a nice tax advantage for making your hobby a business so overall it helps support my hobby. But if it wasn't for the enjoyment of bringing the games to people and the tax benefit I wouldn't bother. I wish you the best of luck.

    #38 11 months ago
    Quoted from lord_norm:

    Id love to sell liquor but the license is about $100k. Hopefully i can work up to it and eventually upgrade to the full liquor license.

    In Florida (other states too, I'm sure) you could apply for a 'Special Food Service Establishment' Liquor License. It is SIGNIFICANTLY less expsnsive than the standard bar/tavern '4 Consumption On Premises' license....but it has certain restrictions. You need to serve food!

    "Must have 2,500 square feet of service area, be
    equipped to serve meals to 150 persons at one
    time, and derive at least 51 percent of gross food
    and beverage revenue from the sale of food and
    nonalcoholic beverages. May not operate as a
    package store and may not sell intoxicating
    beverages after the hours of serving or consumption
    of food have elapsed. License may not be moved to
    a new location."

    #39 11 months ago

    also......

    BEWARE OF ANY PROFESSIONAL LIQUOR LICENSE CONSULTANTS!!!

    ALL the ones I have encountered have been larcenous thieves.

    #40 11 months ago
    Quoted from fattdirk:

    I enjoy it as there is a nice tax advantage for making your hobby a business so overall it helps support my hobby

    Fattdirk, how much can you write off doing this? Just curious as I was thinking of doing this myself. Could you please PM me?

    #41 11 months ago
    Quoted from CadillacMusic:

    What are fees for NGX? I know TT is $75/week.

    Quoted from xTheBlackKnightx:

    I would need to ask our accountant.
    Costs significantly drop once you reach a number threshold for operation per volume. I don't remember how many we have presently switched over from the old Touchtones and Rockola (when AMI bought them out). We are still upgrading.
    The important point is that is part of the agreement between operator and owner, and can vary, hence a good operator can drastically reduce this overhead, and make it beneficial to both parties.

    IMO, TouchTunes blows, AMI is where its at. last I checked, unless it changed, TT makes you use your credits where you buy them, where AMI allows me to keep credits "in my account" and use them wherever there is an AMI device... I love that feature. and its the way it should be. ... sorry OP, back on track... I wish you much success in your business venture my friend!!

    #42 11 months ago

    Here is a question for operators and/or owners.. how well do the Super Chexx bubble hockeys earn? Thinking about putting one of those in one of my bar locations.

    #43 11 months ago

    It's all based on the location. If you have a higher end location, you can set it for a dollar a play and it'll earn. But again, that's true of anything in the right location.

    #44 11 months ago
    Quoted from GhostThruster:

    Here is a question for operators and/or owners.. how well do the Super Chexx bubble hockeys earn? Thinking about putting one of those in one of my bar locations.

    Gears get wrenched by drunk apes and you'll be replacing one every other week or so. They're about $25 each and often require removing the players to lift the ice off to get access to some of the gears. Total pain in the ass.

    #45 11 months ago

    The one in our town was busy as hell when it opened. No admission, games $1 each but... they were greedy as hell on drink pricing. $9 for a mixed drink in a smaller cup. We quit going. My girl said she would rather stay home and play our pins and $10 will buy a whole 5th of liquor.

    #46 11 months ago
    Quoted from jefryan:

    Fattdirk, how much can you write off doing this? Just curious as I was thinking of doing this myself. Could you please PM me?

    I would be wary of writing off hobby expenses for any extensive length of time. Eventually the IRS or state tax board will say “this isn’t a business, it’s a hobby, you owe us all these back taxes...”

    #47 11 months ago
    Quoted from FlippyD:

    I would be wary of writing off hobby expenses for any extensive length of time. Eventually the IRS or state tax board will say “this isn’t a business, it’s a hobby, you owe us all these back taxes...”

    I've been running a side business for just over 10 years, and all but one of them I've recorded a loss and haven't had any issues.

    #48 11 months ago

    I work at one, 20 pinball games with a Killer Queen full alcohol lic.

    #49 11 months ago

    The PInball Bar I work at is owned by a game distributor, and a couple with both bartending/cooking AND ownership experience.
    The place is constantly packed and pinball as a hobby gets picked up by a lot of new players.
    Lots of water drinkers, but I assume business is very healthy, with nearly 400 Google reviews in just a year.

    I would highly recommend partnering w someone with ownership or GM experience if it's your 1st go.

    #50 11 months ago
    Quoted from jahbarron:

    Gears get wrenched by drunk apes and you'll be replacing one every other week or so. They're about $25 each and often require removing the players to lift the ice off to get access to some of the gears. Total pain in the ass.

    Yup, prepare to be fixing games daily.

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