The Coolest Bar in America

20130602_152453What makes a bar, “cool?” Is it the booze? Is it the favorable odds of getting laid? Is it the entertainment (band/dancers/DJs)? I believe the correct answer is all of the above AND none of the above.

“Cool” is a perception and so when we’re talkin’ watering holes, I’m looking for something pleasantly surprising while making me feel that I’m almost not worthy of the experience. All of that was delivered when I entered the 1up in Denver, Colorado.

As I made my way down their stairs, I was not only stepping into a bar, I was stepping into my youth. I was greeted by a row of glowing pinball machines and a quarter machine to assist me in acquiring sacred video game currency. I was ready to search my wallet for some crisp dollar bills but first, I needed a drink. It is a bar, after all. The pouring station was at the heart of the arcade, adorned with neon logos from America’s past – Billy Dee Williams Colt 45 and Ghostbusters, just to name a few.

After sipping from my pint of Prohst Pilsner, I took in the rest of 80s and 90s nostalgia in the form of my favorite arcade classics:

– Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles
– X-Men
– Off Road
– NBA Jam
– The Simpsons
– Mortal Kombat
Dig Dug
Ms. Pacman
– Tapper

The list goes on. In addition to the standard video classics, there’s also skeeball for those of you on dates and need a game where you can purposely lose.

Needless to say, after a few pints and a handful of quarters, I was in heaven – top notch brew without bullies hounding me for money. Little did I know, my divine experience was about to climb another tier towards nirvana as I stumbled past what I will call their “museum shelf.”

20130602_155844Entombed in a tall glass case laid every home video game system I owned and every system that I wanted to own from the early 80s – everything from Nintendo’s handheld pocket games to Coleco Vision to the legendary primitive Atari system. I found myself pressed up against the glass case, just as I did at toy stores in my childhood – when those devices were considered cutting edge technology.

My bandmates and I decided to give our fingers a rest and sip more beers at a table near the Double Dragon machine. “Screw Dave & Buster’s, why aren’t there more bars like these,” was the question between all of us. As our maturity eventually caught up with us, we talked shop about the logistics of operating an establishment that relies on vintage equipment.

First, there’s the challenge of acquiring working vintage arcade machines. Then once you have all of them sitting in your arcade, you have to keep them maintained. For example – with those older games, the background doesn’t move a whole lot and so over time it burns images into the machine’s viewing monitor.

However I must say the maintenance of the equipment would earn a 4 out of 5 in my book. Although I encountered a couple of dead buttons, none of the machines that I played would warrant the dreaded “out of order” sign.

Eventually it was time for me to leave the flashing screens of my favorite arcade games. For once I wasn’t being pulled away by a bored mom. The buzz from Denver’s local brew was prepping me for a nice afternoon drunk nap. When I awoke later on in my tour van, I was hundreds of miles away but I’ll never forget the afternoon where I was able to relive the past… with beer.

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