Troy Parker with Parker Burnell Real Estate Group is pleased to be representing The Circuit – Arcade Bar in their expansion to Downtown Norfolk

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NORFOLK
Old-school gamers might jump for their joysticks over this.

The Circuit, an arcade bar in Richmond, wants to open a second location in downtown Norfolk. The business has set its sights on the first level of 258 Granby St., a building owned by developer Bobby Wright at the Market Street intersection.

The 12,000-square-foot storefront, which is below the co-working space Percolator, would include 70 to 80 arcade games, perhaps 20 pinball machines and several Skee-Ball lanes.

Sound like a blast from the past? The difference between this arcade and the one folks may remember from childhood could be the adult beverages.

The business, to be named Circuit Social, wants to offer snacks and self-serve beer taps, where 55 or so brews and a half-dozen wines could be sampled from a wall-mounted station. In the city, perhaps the closest comparison to the self-serve concept is at Varia, an Italian restaurant in The Main, where customers can fill their own glasses from a few wine taps.

The proposal is the second arcade bar – or bar arcade? – that will go before the City Council this year. A similar business, which has already received approval, wants to open at the former Belmont House of Smoke in Ghent.

These video-game entertainment venues are popping up in cities all over the country. The new generation of arcades focuses on older customers and food and alcohol sales. That profit model may be more successful than the mall-based arcade of the 1980s, which relied on teens and pockets full of coins.

As their popularity grows, a Brooklyn, N.Y.-based chain is making sure no one else uses the term “barcade,” its brand name, to describe them. The company is known for sending letters to competitors about its trademark and has suggested others say “game bars” or “arcade bars” when talking about the industry generically.

Robert Lupica, one of the partners behind the Norfolk venture, said an arcade bar fits the downtown vibe.

“They need some fun entertainment like this,” he said.

The proposal likely will have a public hearing before the Planning Commission in October, then it’s off to the council for another hearing and a vote. If approved, the partners hope to open in January.

In addition to classics such as Pac-Man, Ms. Pac-Man and Asteroids, Circuit Social plans to have some unique offerings.

The company has a pending patent on a six-frame game similar to Skee-Ball for groups of five or six people. The large venue also would include a couple of private karaoke rooms that could be rented for half-hour slots.

The revival of arcades largely has been driven by people like Lupica with nostalgia for the past.

As a child, he loved Galaga, Sprint and Track & Field games.

“We get a lot of families coming in on Saturdays and Sundays,” said Lupica, who is now in his 50s. “They love to show their kids the old games.”

Because of the alcohol, the business intends to limit children’s access by requiring adult chaperones for anyone under 18 before 9 p.m. After that time, only customers 21 and older would be allowed to enter.

Plans shared with the Downtown Norfolk Civic League show Circuit Social wants to close at midnight Monday through Thursday and 1 a.m. Friday through Sunday.

Wright, who first learned about the arcade bar from the Downtown Norfolk Council marketing director, visited the Richmond location and was “blown away.” He liked the business’ energy and diverse customers and saw it as an opportunity to enhance the flow of people between MacArthur Center and Granby Street.

When he shared the idea with his Percolator members, who use office space above the would-be entertainment venue, they were supportive.

”There’s always some naysayer, but I didn’t get anything,” he said.

Lupica said his vision is striving for upscale, with leather couches and modern interior touches. Private areas will be set aside for hosting team-building and corporate events.

Article Courtesy of Elisha Sauers, The Virginia Pilot

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