Barcade CEO Paul Kermizian wants to help expand nightlife culture downtown Newark
by Andaiye Taylor/January 2, 2017
Barcade, the bar/restaurant featuring classic games and American craft beer that currently has locations in New York, Jersey City, Philadelphia and New Haven, will soon come to Newark. We spoke with Barcade CEO Paul Kermizian about what’s in store for one of the latest coming attractions announced for the city.
Andaiye Taylor: Can you explain the Barcade concept for those who haven’t experienced it yet?
Paul Kermizian: We’re an arcade and bar with a focus on classic video games and American craft beer. We offer about 45 video games from the late 70s to the mid 90s, and we’ll have 25 beers, all on draft, with a heavy focus on local beers, and also with a full bar and a full kitchen.
Andaiye Taylor: The place that preceded you (Martini494) had a fancier decor, but your locations have more of an intentional dive bar feel. What’s the plan for the look-and-feel?
Kermizian: It will be similar to [the] Chelsea [location]. Our style is to work with what we have, strip down the space, and then highlight some of the history and architecture of building. We like to have the games be the focus, so our locations have a warehouse-style stripped down aesthetic. It’s a place where everyone is welcome–we even let people graffiti the bathrooms.
Taylor: We saw that you’ll need to go before the planning board of adjustment for approval. Why is that?
Kermizian: There are arcade laws on the books we’ll need to get a variance for, but those were put in at the height of when arcades were considered hangouts for “troubled youth.” We’ll have to present our business plan and explain the concept, but we’re confident about getting approval.
Taylor: Why did you choose Newark?
Kermizian: We’re always looking at a lot of different places at once, and have a lot of places we’re considering. A lot of the decision is [based on] timing. So this became available at the right time, and we’re working on another location that’s going to be in Los Angeles, which is far away from all of the other locations we have.
This is not going to be a big construction turnaround, so timing-wise it fits into our schedule, and the Newark opportunity fit neatly into our expansion plan. Adding the location on the other side of country will be a total change. But this location will be easier to manage.
But [beyond the convenience] the reason we’re considering Newark is because there are a lot of exciting things happening in the downtown area: businesses are expanding, Audible’s there, and there’s more residential coming. I think there’s a lot of opportunity to reach people where there’s not a lot of nightlife already. Walking around and talking to people, it doesn’t seem like locals and Rutgers students have a lot of choices in terms of nightlife in the neighborhood, so I see an opportunity to come and get a foothold.
Taylor: Will this location be consistent with your others in terms of the offering?
Kermizian: It will be a pretty similar model, but the real difference is going to be the food offered in the kitchen.
We’re walking into a location with a full kitchen, so we’re going to do a full menu, like in our Chelsea location. We tweak the locations a little bit based on where they are, and whether it’s more of a happy hour/afternoon crowd or a late night crowd. It feels like Newark might be a happy hour/afternoon place, and that the late night crowd has to develop over time. We’ll be open for lunch and into the late hours, but we’re not positive what time we’ll close. We plan to be open until at least 10 p.m.
We also like to try to get involved with the community and do things like fundraisers, special events, and special happy hours. In our Jersey City location, we do a radio show.
Taylor: One of the tougher obstacles businesses and fun seekers face downtown Newark is parking. Any plans to address that head-on?
Kermizian: We have a similar issue in New Haven because there are very few places to park there, too. We partnered with a garage around the corner to offer validation for our customers. I can’t say right now that we’re going to do that [in Newark], but we have done that elsewhere. We would come up with a solution to make it easier if that’s a serious issue.
Taylor: There are a number of new and existing places in your extended neighborhood. What are your views on engaging with other businesses?
Kermizian: We tend to dive into local business districts and the like; we like to get active. We’re not the type of business that looks at other nightlife as our competition, particularly in an area where there isn’t a lot. When there are more places, it’s better for everyone.
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Andaiye is a Newark native, Newark resident, and the show runner at BrickCityLive.com. Andaiye holds a master's degree from Columbia Journalism School and was a fellow in the Tow-Knight Center for Entrepreneurial Journalism at CUNY. She was the 2012 recipient of the Erik Lars-Nelson prize for excellence in reporting and writing. In addition to running Brick City, Andaiye is also head of content for Clover. Email her at email@example.com, and follow her on Twitter @andaiye.
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