The long-anticipated addition to SLC’s nightlife scene, arcade bar Quarters, at last opened its doors to throngs of nostalgic Gen Xers and gamer geeks. Arcade bars are a mainstay in most major US cities, where the combo of retro gaming, pinball—i.e. constant distractions for introverts—and booze has proven winning.
On Quarters’ opening weekend, if you didn’t get in the door early, chances are you weren’t going to. Our little posse managed to sneak in before 7 p.m. But by the time we left, two hours later, there was a line down the block of people waiting to get in.
The bar itself has a clubhouse feel, concrete floors and low ceilings, with little seating nooks and crannies that surround waiting console games. The old stand-up-style cabinet games, like Ms. Pac Man, crowd the room and a wall of well-tuned pinball machines line the walls.
Everything at Quarters, naturally, takes quarters. On the first night they were open, they reportedly ran out and were buying back extras from patrons. And, although they have bill changers, you’ll need cash to get at those quarters. There is an ATM with an unfriendly $3 fee. The bar, which does take cards, serves a section of cleverly-named, gaming-themed cocktails and a nice range of local craft beers. Also on the drink list is a selection of “slings,” fruity rum punches and you can order a flavored LaCroix with a shot poured into the can, which was both novel and efficient.
Efficiency, however, is still under review at Quarters. Early nights, the bar was slammed, 10-deep at every bar station. It’s a new spot with some veteran Salt Lake bartenders but the futzy craft cocktails really slowed things down. On busy nights they’d do well to ditch the artisan menu for rush hour and just sling G&Ts and other one-well-shot + one-mixer drinks to keep things moving.
The crowd was a mix of old paunchy guys in Street Fighter T-shirts and youngsters clamoring to play the games. A friend of mine, who frequents arcade bars in other cities when he travels, pointed out that they are good networking spots for IT guys who aren’t always that great at keeping up conversation and can assuage their ADD with a Mortal Combat battle. That seemed a fair assessment of the crowd.
The centerpiece of Quarters is a large game called Killer Queen. The bar’s owners ran a GoFundMe campaign to get the team-against-team game into the bar. Billed as the world’s only 10-player strategy game Killer Queen is the darling of Quarters with its retro 8-bit graphics and friendly competitive play. Two teams, each led by a powerful Queen, face off to be the first to bring the giant snail god home, fill their hive with nectar, or execute a triple assassination of the enemy Queen. Got it?
Despite some stress-test hiccups, however, Quarters is a lot of fun, great for a big crew out on the town. At least until the hubbub dies down, go early and bring your own quarters. Located in the old Manhattan Club, Quarters is downstairs, just below the Apollo Burger. 5 E. 400 South, SLC, quartersslc.com.