HARDBARNED! The Blog

Nashville Needs A Barcade

Dear well-connected, cash-flush Businesspeople and Investor Types,

Nashville needs a barcade. Bar + Arcade = Barcade. Brilliant, right? I'm not at all sure that right now many of you are surfing the vast nether regions of the innerwebs, fine-tooth-combing your way through the most obscure nooks and crannies of the farthest reaches of our fiber-optically crisscrossed global network of overheated servers in search of new and innovative ways to squeeze megabucks out of thin air, but my guess is that you probably are.

Maybe you're bored with the advice of mainstream, old, successful investors like Warren Buffett (too long-view-y) and Carl Icahn (too Bain Capital-y).

You want to invest in something new, something designed for a younger audience, but not too young. Something that appeals to your inherent need to invest and your desire to build wealth fast, something more unpredictable with a greater risk/reward index than boring old blue-chips, safe SMP-500s and Apple shares.

Maybe you're tired of scrolling through Kickstarter for inspiration after that debacle with the locksmith guy, and maybe you don't give a crap about the new Veronica Mars movie, so you've decided to take some advice from random, unpopular bloggers on where to throw your piles of extra cash, and you find yourself here, at my humble abode. Welcome! If you were here in person, I'd offer you an IPA.

So your quest for capital-worthy ideas has led you to my eclectic little corner of the web, Gosh, you're an interesting, opinionated, nuanced investor/businessperson of discerning tastes who knows real talent when you see it, I can really tell. Thanks for stopping by. Put your feet up. 

No, I am not one of you, being neither cash-infused nor business savvy, I cannot make this--my imaginary yet destined-for-greatness venture--happen for myself, but I bet your Best Business Idea Detector is tingling like Peter Parker's Spidey Sense when he first met Gwen Stacy!

Well, get those investment dollars ready because boy, do I have an idea for you! Yep, that was rhetorical, so no question mark, and boy is genderless in this sense. I know what you're thinking. Get to it, you wordy motherfucker. Whoah there, Gordon Gekko, keep your suit on. This is fun for me, and what is a blog, other than a public excuse for word wanking, rambling on incessantly about things only you find interesting or important? Yeah, well, Nashville needs a barcade.

Allow me to elaborate on the genesis of this brainstorm. There once was a restaurant in town that I really liked called Mirko. They made their own pasta. They weren't winning any James Beard Awards or Michelin stars, but the food was tasty and reasonably priced. One day, I noticed they had closed. Bummer. Not long after that, I was at a bar and heard a rumor that a "barcade" had opened. I was intrigued.

The magical synergy of a bar and an arcade sounded like a formula for fun. My Galaga trigger-button finger twitched with anticipation. The next day, I got a text from a friend about the new business that had replaced the pasta place. It sounded like it had to be the barcade that I'd heard about, so I looked it up. Second bummer.

It's not that what Two Bits came up with is a bad idea. I'm sure they're doing what they're doing very well, and a lot of things on their menu look absolutely delicious. I wish them well. I haven't been there yet, and I'm not reviewing them with this post.

Clearly the focus is on the food there, not the games, and while nothing is wrong with that, we're just not talking about the same kind of place. If I had a shot at it, I'd go a different route, but again, I'm not businessman, so maybe my approach would be an epic failure. All I know is that what sounds good to me--my idea of a barcade--for my own enjoyment and for that of my friends, looks very different.

My concept for an ideal barcade does not include a renowned, internationally trained executive chef who has worked with with famous cookbook authors and television hosts. Its menu would not include two dozen beers, a cocktail menu or words like "mixologist" or "libations." There would be no octopus, goat cheese, mussels or tabouleh on the menu. There wouldn't be a menu.

There might be a dry erase board behind the bar, though. And maybe an old CD jukebox with punk rock, metal and grunge. My barcade would be for people who like to drink beer and play classic arcade games, period. It wouldn't be a restaurant with upscale bar food, a few arcade games and consoles with giant television sets or board games.

The focus would be on the video games, specifically on acquiring and maintaining a large, carefully curated collection of classic upright arcade machines. And there would be beer. But not too many choices. Just a few good ones. In the back corner of the large room, a small bar would be set up with a simple selection of three or four beers that could be subject to irregular rotation: one IPA, one stout, one lager, one pilsner. Standard (16 oz) pint glasses, if the law allows. Reasonable prices.

There wouldn't be a lot of places to sit in my barcade because people would gather there to play games and drink beers while standing up because, well, most people usually stand up when playing arcade games. There would be a few stools at the bar and a few others for those who like to sit at arcade machines. There would be custom-built beer stands, or small, tall, side tables with holes cut in them to accommodate pint glasses securely, next to every arcade unit.

Players would simply set their beers aside next to their games, within the wooden holes of these custom beer towers, where pints would be free from spillage and ready when needed. Patrons would grab a beer and then wander about from game to game.

Possible variations, should your team of developers choose to expand on my ideas, include the addition of air hockey, billiards, darts, pinball and table tennis. But let's not get too carried away. No need for skeeball, shuffleboard or whack-a-mole. There is, however, a distinct lack of table tennis in bars, if you ask me. What a great game.

Another option would be to add a pizza parlor and some booths in the back. You know, the whole "cook one simple thing and do it really well, with very limited options" approach...but I don't know. You guys are the experts on making money. My gut says keep it simple and do a couple key things perfectly.

I maintain that the further we stray from the original idea--the purity of classic arcade games and a simple beer selection--the more opportunities we have to invite complications and ultimate failure. I remain confident in those two ingredients for success: Beer + Arcade Games = All You Need. If you build it they will come.

As for all the other "how do we make money on this" questions, like tokens or credits, cover charges or change machines, free games and expensive beers, free beers and expensive games, cheap food and cheap beer or cheap games, I don't know. I say it should all be cheap and as simple as possible for customers, but margins are easier to make on alcohol, right? Like I said, I'm not one of you.

I'm just speaking from the perspective of someone who would really like to meet up with friends to visit and enjoy a place like this--one that only exists in my imagination--but I think I'm not the only one who would dig it. So grab your businessperson/investor friends and make it happen, okay? Make your fortune. Greed is good, right Gekko? The idea is yours to run with. All that I ask in return is a free lifetime pass for admission, beer and games. Cheers.

I'm sure you're already off to a running start, certain that Nashville needs this place desperately and that you, you well-connected MBA with rich friends and a passionate appreciation for Galaga, Gauntlet, Joust, Street Fighter, TRON, Operation Wolf, Tetris, Afterburner, Rolling Thunder and Contra are already drawing up a business plan.

But wait a minute. Just so you know, the folks who started Barcade in Brooklyn (of course it's in Brooklyn, right?) have already copywritten the name and expanded with additional locations in New York, Jersey City and Philadelphia, and they're definitely onto something closer to what I have in mind. Their concept is still a little fancier than what I'm pitching, but I say let's beat them to it before they spread into the southeast and do this thing for us. Beercade is also taken.

We'll have to call it Taverncade, unless you like Admiral Arcbar, which kind of sucks. Better yet, how about Pubcade? I like the sound of that that: PUBCADE it is. Your move, businesspeople and investor types. Make it happen for us. Nashville nerds of all ages (21 and up) will thank you. Operation initiated!