Over-the-Rhine will be home to a new type of bar concept when 16-Bit Bar + Arcade
opens in the spring, combining beer and cocktails with vintage arcade games. The location at 1331 Walnut St. joins the flagship 16-Bit in Columbus, which opened in 2013, and a second that opened in August in Cleveland.
16-Bit will have over 50 vintage arcade games, including classics like Frogger, Galaga and Ms. Pacman, as well as late ‘80s and early ‘90s fighting games like Mortal Kombat and Street Fighter II. There will also be four-player games like The Simpsons, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and X-Men.
Owner Troy Allen spends a lot of time researching, finding and restoring games for 16-Bit. He plans to have more obscure games, too, including titles like Capper and Omega Race.
“We want to deliver the experience of when someone comes in, they’re stepping in and discovering something from their childhood,” he says. “We love when people come in and see a game they haven’t seen in years.”
The 4,000-square-foot space has three garage doors on the front that open onto the sidewalk in warmer weather. And as soon as customers walk inside, they’ll be transported back to the ’80s and ’90s by the music, décor, menus and movies on the TVs.
“It’s so much more than a bar or an arcade,” Allen says. “We want those visual cues that will take people back to remember a time in their childhood.”
OTR will also boast 16-Bit’s first dedicated console bar, an area at the front for console play on Atari 7200, Nintendo, Nintendo 64, Super Nintendo and all the way up to Xbox. Players will be able to choose from the arcade’s vast console library and play in dedicated tournaments for games like Mario Kart and Smash Bros.
On the bar side, 16-Bit will have 24 craft beer taps with local, Ohio and seasonal beers. It will also have your basic beer in cans as well as a two-sided cocktail menu. One side will have new-wave cocktails named after icons from the ‘80s and ‘90s (think Molly Ringwold and Cindy Lauper), while the other side will feature old-school classic cocktails, also named after icons from the ’80s and ’90s. "Poptails" will be featured in the summer — the Hulk Hogan is flavored vodka, lemonade and Sprite in a pint glass with a Bomb Pop.
16-Bit won’t charge a cover, and all games are free to play. Allen says that even though the quarter machines are disabled people still feed quarters to them because they like the nostalgia it brings.
And although 16-Bit is a bar first and is therefore 21 and over, Allen plans to have “Bring Your Shortie” days once a week, when all ages can come and play. The bar will also be available for special events and private parties.
“We want to give people the chance to introduce younger generations to these games,” he says.
Allen also owns a Columbus-based brand strategy and design firm where he launches businesses and brands for others. He started to look at the idea of 16-Bit from a business standpoint and realized that it would be a good test for his new company.
From the beginning, Allen had planned to launch five markets in three years, with Cincinnati in the running for the third or fourth market. He was approached by 3CDC in 2013 to bring the concept to OTR, where 16-Bit will anchor the second phase of the Mercer Commons development.
“I remember Over-the-Rhine as something completely different,” Allen says. “I came down about a year ago, and I couldn’t believe how much it and downtown had changed. From that moment, I was hooked.”
Once open, 16-Bit’s hours will be 4 p.m.-2:30 a.m. Monday-Friday and noon to 2:30 a.m. Saturday and Sunday.