JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- If playing arcade games while drinking craft beer sounds like a good time, this new dive bar on King Street may be exactly what you're looking for. Just don't forget to bring a roll of quarters.
Keg & Coin is a forcefully nostalgic trip down memory lane for a lot of Millennials and Gen Xers who grew up frequenting arcades, those noisy, parent-free zones you could often find in shopping malls.
Well, the times have changed. Arcades of yesteryear have all but completely disappeared and today's mall rats have their faces glued to cellphones on which they can play a plethora of video games for free.
But that hasn't crushed the youthful spirit which drew us all to the flashing, buzzing, rumbling and jolting excitement that awaited in the dimly-lit confines of an arcade.
"Arcade games are one of those kind of childhood staples that really brings you back before the Internet, before it was so easy to play games,” said Brooks Whalen, co-owner of Keg & Coin. “And you can play for free now, for as long as you want.”
Located near the intersection of King St. and Park, Keg & Coin is an expansion of the Riverside craft beer retailer Beer:30, which was started by Warren Fryefield in 2012.
“[Fryefield] eventually put a small bar into Beer:30 a little over a year ago and a good friend of ours, Roni Penna, came to me and discussed opening a bar arcade type of establishment.”
Whalen says the concept was brought to Fryefield for further discussion. The group eventually came to the conclusion that they liked the idea, however they wanted to remain in the Riverside area.
Lucky for them, a struggling laundromat next to Beer:30 was looking to get out of their lease, according to Whalen.
“We said, ‘Well, we already have an established customer base here. We have a great location. We love this intersection.’ And we thought, what a cool thing to expand into an old laundromat. It had a little character to it,” said Whalen.
From timeless classics like Ms. Pac-Man and Street Fighter, to pinball rarities such as Godzilla and NBA Fastbreak, Whalen and his partners have been busy for the past few months hunting down games and installing them inside the bar.
Whalen said the arcade games have come from all over. Some belong to private collectors, while others have been stocked by a local gaming and entertainment company. The rare selection of games offered is something the bar takes pride in.
“We’ve really tried to get the best games. not just whatever games are in the warehouse, but really go out and seek the games that we’re looking for and bring them in,” Whalen said. “So, some of the stuff you see here isn’t just off-the-shelf, you can find it anywhere, it’s really one of a kind stuff that you probably won’t see very many places.”
A soft opening was held just before Christmas to give locals a taste of what to expect from Riverside’s newest addition. Whalen said the bar’s customer base has steadily been increasing, as word of the new establishment spreads throughout the neighborhood.
“I mean, there are pinball games around town, but there’s not this concentration of 21 arcade games, six pinball machines,” said Cody, a local pinball machine technician. “Of all these games, there is only one Judge Dredd in the state, you know, one NBA Fastbreak.”
Keg & Coin has a little something for every gamer, but it’s not all about button smashing and high scores. One local patron said the friendly atmosphere is what will keep him coming back.
“The clientele here is way better than pretty much anywhere else I go and that’s one of the main reasons I come here,” said Ross Jaworski. “I just absolutely love sitting down with somebody, and pretty much every time I sit down, I make a new friend. And, you can’t do that anywhere.”
As for Jaworski, who is a nuclear medicine technologist at a nearby hospital, he prefers to wind down after a long day on the job by playing his favorite arcade game, Street Fighter.
“It’s all in that same time period,” Jaworski said. “Like that early 90s, mid 90s. It’s just really great.”
With an already extensive beer list to match the rare selection, Whalen said Keg & Coin will eventually have around 30 arcade games to choose from. But there’s one that he’s had his sights set on for quite some time.
“Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Turtles in Time, absolutely,” Whalen said. “We’ve been looking for that one for a few months. We did just get the Simpsons game in there. So, that was probably almost, if not just as good. But yeah, we really want to get that Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles in here.”
So, next time you’re in the neighborhood, grab your spare change and go bust a move where the arcade games are played. It's chill, it's fresh, it's the Keg & Coin arcade.