Pin up! Arcade Bar is the much needed addition to Waterloo

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Photo by Luke Sarazin

The coolest new spot has opened up on King and University.

It’s a venue that, not only speaks to the likes of those who seek a great drink any night of the week, but also features something that brings out both the nostalgia in an older generation and excitement for the younger.

The Pin Up! Arcade Bar blends a bar with an arcade. Reaching a level of awesome that only a nerd like myself can attempt to fathom and put into words. A few days ago, I caught up with the owner and Laurier Alumni, Che Curnew, to talk a little bit about the bar and get a tour of the establishment before it opened for the night.

Curnew, a pinball connoisseur and avid collector, gave me a brief history of the pinball machine through the ones that he had restored and purchased, while simultaneously showing me the dozen other arcade machines that are showcased in his bar.

“There is a lot of people who come in here and this is the first pinball machine that they had ever seen, and I want them to see a pinball machine … and see how great it really is.”

Curnew explained when and why he combined the two types of entertainment.

“The concept [of the arcade bar] is gaining popularity because these machines appeal to guys that are a little older — a bar/restaurant going crowd.”

From a classic 70s “Pin Up” pin ball machine to a brand new Guardians of the Galaxy themed edition, Curnew passionately explained how the technology had moved drastically from the 70s until today. It’s clear that Curnew wants to give new life to arcade gaming, which brought him so much joy when he was a kid.

Growing up in Belleville, Ontario, Curnew anticipated the chance to go to his local arcade and, when asked if owning his own was a childhood aspiration, he said said the following:

“It was everyone’s childhood dream that was my age, arcades were a big thing when I was growing up, and I kind of jokingly say that this is me trying to recoup my allowance money —because that’s where every kid spent his Saturday.”

As an adult, Curnew has created the ideal place to continue a legacy of the classic arcade style — which also works well alongside the bar scene in Waterloo.

The arcade brings together kids, students and adults alike, connecting multiple generations of players who enjoy the draw of location gaming. Curnew went on to express that the business caters to a larger pinball community in the tri-cities’ area as well.

In fact, Curnew surprised me by saying that there are pinball collector leagues in almost every major city, and that many collectors open their homes to players. One collector in particular that he mentioned, has over fifty machines in the basement of his home, welcoming fellow enthusiasts to participate in pinball competitions.

It’s fascinating to hear how this type of niche gaming still lives on. But also, in a way, I wish that more people appreciated location gaming today. Good news for me, however, as the Pin up! Arcade Bar – much like other similar concepts that are appearing – are altering the perception that surrounds this older form of entertainment.

“The concept [of the arcade bar] is gaining popularity because these machines appeal to guys that are a little older — a bar/restaurant going crowd.”

“They’re looking for places that are themed around things that they care about and like … it’s also a way to keep this kind of stuff relevant to people your age.”

The idea of being able to return to the arcade bar on a Friday night with some friends made me even more psyched about the business opening, and I hope that other Laurier students share in my sentiments.

Honestly, who wouldn’t like pinball and a few drinks?

I know that I certainly won’t be refusing such a perfect combination any time soon.


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