Bar profile: 16-Bit Bar + Arcade beautifully blends childhood games, adult beverages

  • Photos by Meghan Ralston
By Columbus Alive
From the September 5, 2013 edition

After months of arduous anticipation,16-Bit Bar + Arcade opened last weekend. Droves came out, stepped up to the joysticks and drank all the beer. Yes, actually ran out of beer by Sunday. Apparently we really wanted a bar with old-school arcade games.

“The demographic was there, and it was long overdue for this concept to be [here],” owner Troy Allen said.

Those who visited 16-Bit for opening weekend got what they expected: A plethora of arcade games whisking you back to childhood, adult beverages and a whole lot of folks. Most had a good time. I know I did.

16-Bit bucked the arcade norm by setting up 40 or so games — everything from classics “Galaga” and “Pac-Man “to ’90s stuff like Street Fighter (Champion and Turbo) and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles — in a stylish bar setting. Instead of funky-colored carpeting, has hardwood walls, flat screens and a granite-top U-shapedbar. Most ingenious are drink stands next to games.

Also different from the traditional arcade experience is every game (except pinball) is free play. If you drink, you play for free. Some were cynical about this approach, fearing it could lead to game monopolization. But House Rules are instituted, a sign informing patrons of “no game hogging” and “winner stays, loser walks.”

“We’ve found it’s a really respectful crowd,” Allen said. “I’ve never seen an issue … where someone’s being a total asshole and not getting off the game.”

16-Bit is a bar foremost, only with arcade games. There are 12 craft beer taps ($4 during happy hour, $6 otherwise), a selection of $5 and $3 bottles and cans and $8 cocktails. The classics get cheeky new names (an old fashioned is Burt Reynolds, Moscow mule is Dolph Lundgren) and fruity, sweet drinks are named after Molly Ringwald, Tiffani Amber Thiessen and the like.

Thrifty drinkers will gravitate to tallboys of Oranjeboom ($3) and PRB ($2).

16-Bit will be insanely busy the next few weeks, but it’s not insufferable, and Allen said he’s making daily improvements to his first bar venture (like stocking a lot more beer).

“There are a lot of high expectations. We’re just trying to deliver on them,” Allen said.

So keep calm and game on.