A new, and wildly popular concept has entered the nightlife scene, captivating the populace of many major cities: the "arcade bar," a hybrid arcade and bar that offers all the gaming fun of the former with the beer and booze of the latter. First seen in Williamsburg, New York (so you know it's hip), the "barcade" concept has spread to Philadelphia, Toronto, and even Ottawa, yet remains curiously absent from Montreal's ever-booming bar scene.
Why has there been no arcade bar opened in Montreal, a city well-known for its video game culture and studios? Well, it isn't for lack of trying. Dominic Bourret, perhaps better known as the Montreal gaming guru Papa Casette has been trying to pave the way for the very first bar arcade in Montreal since last year.
If able, Casette would see a bar arcade opened in Ville-Marie or Hochelaga, somewhere east of Saint Denis and west of Pie-IX, as he explained to us. Within the bar, patrons would be delighted to play a magical mix of 80s and early 90s arcade games (think Street Fighter, Galaga, and Pac-Man) on authentic machines, with a space devoted to old-school consoles like the NES, Sega Genesis, and Atari 2600.
Best of all, all the games would be free to play. No wait, the best part is that you would be able to play all of these games (no quarters needed) and drink well-priced craft beer. Casette told us he wouldn't stock his arcade bar with Budweiser or Coors Light, but would rather feature the wares of local microbreweries, with the sale of alcohol covering all the costs of the bar, hence the free games.
Photo cred - candescent
Given the large gaming community found in Montreal, including both video game professional and die-hard fans, a bar arcade in Montreal would be a guaranteed success.Enthusiasm for retro and modern gaming is easily evidenced when you look at the successful events held by groups like ArcadeMTL, GaymerZone, and Nexus, and there's no doubt their attendees would regularly head to a legit bar arcade.
There's only one thing standing in Papa Casette's way: the City of Montreal itself. Or, more specifically, a certain by-law which has proved to be a major roadblock for Casette.
A Ville-Marie municipal regulation, the by-law stipulates that any "salle d'amusement" found in the borough must be at least 25 metres far from any venue that serves alcohol. Given that a bar arcade would have a full bar steps away from a slew of games, Casette's concept would be a pretty blatant infraction of the by-law.
Casette (understandably) fears how the by-law could be applied if he opens a bar arcade in the city, and doesn't want to open a new establishment, invest a bunch of money and energy, and only have it shut down. Seems like another example of how Montreal isn't a great place to run a business.
One could argue that Montreal already has arcade bars, but in truth, they all pale in comparison to Casette's idea, and other arcade bars, notably the original Barcade. You have to actually pay for games at Apt. 200 (an in the Plateau), Foonzo lacks any real arcade games, and Next holds gaming events, so their arcade bar status is ephemeral. So in truth, a single by-law is standing in the way between Montreal and its first true arcade bar.
Of course, with the local government's support and an official waiver negating the by-law infraction, an arcade bar could be opened. The operative word here is could, as Casette has made a point to reach out to local officials but has recieved next to no answer.
Taking to Twitter, Casette directly addressed Denis Coderre, which garnered a pretty weak and non-committal response from Montreal's mayor. Since then, no city official has followed up on the issue, and Casette isn't sure they ever will, not unless the Montreal community gets involved.
Knowing that little will be done unless there is some form of public outcry, Casette is tasking all of those in Montreal who would like to attend, play, and drink at a bar arcade to share his story and make the city's officials "understand that such a project is desired by many of the voters." Make some noise, tweet at Coderre, and share this article to get the word out.
Because if we want a bar arcade in Montreal, we're going to need to make it happen ourselves. Now make a ruckus Montreal, you know you're good at it.