Samantha Quiel and Joel Bloch aren’t the type to spend Sunday afternoons at bars in downtown Raleigh.
And Coglin’s, an ’80s and ’90s-themed bar on Fayetteville Street, usually isn’t open before 4:30 p.m. on Sundays.
Yet at 1:30 p.m. Sunday, Quiel and Bloch were standing at the bar in Coglin’s – a place they’d never been – with drinks in their hands.
It wasn’t the Weezer or Everclear songs that drew them in but another resurrected vestige of their youth: Pokemon. Bloch played with Pokemon cards when they rose in popularity about 10 years ago. Now that he’s 22, Pokemon Go has more active daily smartphone app users than Twitter, a social media platform that’s been on the market for a decade.
“I love the collecting aspect that makes it so addictive,” said Bloch, who lives in Apex. “This is kind of an authentic community.”
This Sunday, a group of eight downtown Raleigh bars and restaurants became the latest businesses in North Carolina and across the U.S. to adopt a Pokemon theme to attract new customers.
More than 100 people participated in the Pokemon Go Gotta Catch ‘Em All bar crawl organized by the owners of Coglin’s. Players could go to Coglin’s, Isaac Hunter’s, Oak City Meatball Shoppe, Anchor Bar, Paddy O’Beers, Level Up, Boxcar Bar and Arcade or Big Easy to catch Pokemon that might not otherwise be there on any other day.
You see, Pokemon – short for pocket monsters – are fictional creatures that players catch and train to battle each other.
Pokemon Go superimposes its characters on real streets that players can see through the app. So to find them, players must walk outside and navigate the game’s map of real cities and towns. Players say they find more Pokemon in urban areas than rural areas.
Gamers can also use real money to plant Pokemon lures in a specific place in an attempt to draw them near. That’s what Coglin’s and the others did this Sunday to boost drink and food sales on what might otherwise be a slow business day – especially amid the heat.
So players could go from place to place or just sit around and drink and wait for Pokemon to come to them, virtually speaking.
Collin Yarbrough, the Coglin’s DJ who led the event, said Pokemon Go is just as popular with those of drinking age as it is among minors – if not more so.
Kids are playing, but it’s a lot of people who are 25 and older reliving their middle-school years. It’s as much of an exercise app as anything.
“Kids are playing, but it’s a lot of people who are 25 and older reliving their middle-school years,” Yarbrough said. “It’s as much of an exercise app as anything.”
The cost of Pokemon lures, about $1 per 30-minute lure, is a small price for businesses to pay to increase exposure, said Jennifer Martin, executive director of Shop Local Raleigh.
The Durham Bulls held a Pokemon Go event earlier this month and the North Carolina Museum of History, just two blocks north from Fayetteville Street, held a two-hour event at the same time as the bar crawl.
“Pokemon is creating a way for people to get out, explore our community and meet new people at the same time,” Martin said. “If people spend time with local businesses while playing the game and remember to come back, everyone wins.”
Sunday’s Poke-crawlers could win prizes like a Pokeball-shaped bottle opener for visiting the most participating businesses, which on Sunday sold Pokemon-themed drinks and food. And it seemed to work.
Eva Zeron and her boyfriend Jade Quintero, 24, sat at the bar in Level Up on Salisbury Street drinking cocktails, eating tacos and watching their phones for traces of a nearby Pokemon.
Zeron, who lives near Brier Creek outside the Beltline, said she enjoyed her first time at the arcade bar.
“I could definitely see myself coming back here. It seems like a nice, chill environment,” she said. “Video games are more fun when you’re drinking.”