Most of us who grew up in the ’80s spent summers and weekends at the arcade with the likes of “Ms. Pac-Man,” “Donkey Kong” and “Frogger.”
Sadly, those classic games and hangout spots as we once knew them no longer exist, having been replaced by games such as “Angry Birds,” “Call of Duty” and “Minecraft” that are typically played on hand-held devices that don’t require you to leave your couch.
But lucky for us middle-aged folks, a group of guys in Chapel Hill is bringing back the carefree times of hovering over giant 2D cabinet video games with a joystick in hand, a pocket full of quarters and a mission to beat your best friend’s high score.
And this time around, there will be alcohol.
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Brothers Joe and Danny Miller, along with friends Nick Stroud and Alex Joustra, are opening The Baxter, an arcade and bar with nothing but restored old-school video games and pinball machines.
“It’s like stepping back into an arcade of the ’80s and ’90s,” Danny Miller said. “You feel like you’re walking into a museum of arcade machines.”
The place will have 40 games that Miller hopes to change, based on what the owners can find and have refurbished. The group has a list of about 10 to 15 others they hope to eventually offer.
At the start, customers can expect to find “Ms. Pac-Man,” “Donkey Kong” and “Frogger,” along with popular classics such as “Centipede,” “Double Dragon,” “Pole Position,” “WWF Superstars,” “Tron,” “Asteroids Deluxe,” “Galaga” and the original 1978 “Space Invaders.”
“These are all the originals, no reproductions,” said Miller, 35.
And at The Baxter, they only cost a quarter to play.
The arcade’s owners hope to attract a younger crowd, along with those who grew up knowing and playing the games. They aim to get folks to socialize without their phones and “reintroduce people to the good old-fashioned high score,” Miller said.
The place, which Miller calls “nerd chic,” will have murals of pop culture events like “Star Wars” on the walls; tables will be made out of old pinball machines, and decorations will be inspired by comic books and old B horror movies.
The Baxter will also have a giant chalkboard with lists of high scores, and those leaders will get a pint glass with their name on it, “building competition in the bar,” Miller said.
The four owners have spent the past eight months or so searching for the games and having a friend fix them up. They found many on Craigslist, and have traveled from Georgia to Tennessee to Northern Virginia to pick them up.
“Basically, we’ve driven everywhere to go get these games in towns we thought we’d never be in or heard of,” Miller said. “A lot of them were just sitting in people’s garages. And the fun part is finding out what’s out there.”
The owners want to eventually host events such as old movie nights and dance, disco and 80s parties that encourage people to dress up.
The Baxter will have a full bar that includes about 20 domestic bottled beers, six taps and cocktails. Drinks are expected to range from about $2 to about $5.
The 3,600-square-foot arcade will hold about 70 to 75 people. And because it’s a private club, kids are not allowed. However, Miller said they plan to host designated kids’ days that would open the place up for all ages and include things like Pixar movies and pizza.
In the meantime, Miller wants to get back to playing the games he and so many others loved back in the day.
“We’re bringing those old-school games back to life, restoring them and putting them back out to the public,” Miller said. “It will be a cool atmosphere and a great bar.”
The Baxter will be at 108 N. Graham St. in Chapel Hill, and is expected to open Aug. 29.
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