Quarters Arcade Bar, Salt Lake City’s first game-themed watering hole, will open Thursday, offering serious and amateur gamers a chance to play checkers or “Space Invaders” and sip a sling at the same time.
The basement bar is at 5 E. 400 South, in the former Manhattan Club spot, steps from TRAX and Main Street’s growing entertainment, restaurant and bar scene.
The owners and operators, Michael Eccleston and Katy Willis, bought dozens of games for customers to play, from pinball machines and Skee-Ball to retro board favorites and classic arcade titles like “Mortal Kombat,” “Street Fighter” and “X-Men.”
The centerpiece, though, is “Killer Queen,” an arcade-style video game that up to 10 people can play at one time. Eccleston and Willis launched a successful fundraising campaign to collect the $13,000 needed to buy the strategy game, designed for “talking and meeting people.”
“Killer Queen is the epitome of that,” said Willis. Players must interact with their teammates to accomplish various tasks, from filling their hive with nectar to assassinating the enemy queen. About 50 of the games are known to exist worldwide.
Willis said Quarters plans to host tournaments and a league for “Killer Queen” as well as other popular games.
Those who contributed to the fundraiser will get a chance to play the games Thursday from noon to 4 p.m., before the bar officially opens, said Willis.
Encouraging people to put down their electronic devices and have a personal interaction is one of the reasons the owners were drawn to the arcade bar concept.
It’s also one of the reasons the concept has become a trend across the nation, they say.
Alongside the video games are other classic pastimes, such as Monopoly, foosball and Dungeons and Dragons.
Quarters will serve local beer, wine and craft cocktails that have gamer themes such as the Techno Pagan, a reference to “Buffy the Vampire Slayer.” It’s made with tequila, lime juice, orange-flavored liqueur — garnished with a glowing ice cube.
There also will be simpler drinks called slings, like the Red Rum — think “The Shining” — made with Mountain Dew Code Red and rum.
“It tastes like a strawberry cream soda,” said Willis.
Eccleston and Willis have spent months remodeling the 7,000-square-foot space, which was funded in part with $150,000 from Salt Lake City’s Economic Development Loan Fund.
Willis says the loan was a unique and much simpler way to secure funding than a traditional small-business loan through banks.
“It’s a resource that other cities don’t have and really made us allies,” she said. “Going through the inspection process, it was good to have someone at the city helping us.”
As part of the remodel, the pair restored the Manhattan Club’s outdoor neon sign and other pieces from the building’s past, including an old telephone booth, the white grand piano and a mural of the Big Apple.