Centipede is moving 100 feet up the street.
Pinball machines and classic arcade games, like Skee Ball and Centipede, are being transported from Arcadia National Bar’s current location on Preble Street in Portland to the former home of Port City Music Hall on Congress Street – a move that Arcadia co-owner David Aceto said he felt he had to make to save the business.
Arcadia hasn’t reopened since the start of the pandemic, and Aceto was at the point of considering whether to close permanently, when he instead made the bold move this weekend to sign a lease for the larger space and appeal for support from the self-described nerds who don’t want to lose their gathering space.
As of Monday evening, more than 600 donors had raised nearly $52,000 – about $10,000 beyond the goal Aceto had set three days before – to help with the move and keep the business afloat in the meantime.
Aceto said he hopes to open in the spring in the new, larger location that will enable patrons to spread out and play safely, which didn’t feel feasible in the Preble Street location.
When the bar closed last March because of the pandemic, Aceto thought it might be for a few weeks. Then he hoped for a summer reopening. By fall, he had exhausted a $70,000 PPP loan and began thinking the business would have to close.
“You keep losing money because you have to pay rent, insurance, and this, that and the other. At some point, you reach a breaking point. We tried to hold off as long as we could,” he said. “In December, it just became time to say, ‘What are the plays we can make, because as we are, we cannot survive. We will be a dead business.’ It really came down to, ‘Can we even do this anymore?’ ”
Arcadia National Bar hosts competitive pinball leagues and tournaments, and attracts players from across the region. It had about 40 games on the floor, mostly pinball machines, in the Preble Street location, which opened in 2014, and will expand its offerings in the new location. But this move is not about expansion and growth, Aceto said. It’s about survival.
He described the decision to change locations as a “you-only-live-once move. I don’t know if it’s going to work, but I hope that it does. … This is what I want to do with the rest of my life. If you want something, you have to fight for it. If we fail, I am going to go down with the ship.”
In the new location, the games will be set up in a larger space, giving players more room and allowing Aceto the chance to place more games on the floor. “This move is all about being in a space that will allow people to spread out,” he said. Arcadia will continue to serve its signature cocktails, and the menu will focus on what Aceto called “classic arcade pizza” with cold sandwiches and sides. Aceto signed the lease on the new space over the weekend and began moving gear and games from one location to the other soon after.
“The hope is that we can open in May or June. That would be great,” Aceto said on Monday. “It’s definitely going to be arcade-centric, as it always has been. That is the top priority.”
With virus numbers dropping, vaccinations increasing and hope for better times ahead, Aceto decided to assume the risk of a new lease despite the public-health uncertainties. In addition to crowdfunding, he’s “sold some ownership to other people, as a means to hang on.” The other owners, he said, would be announced soon.
The move to 504 Congress St. also gives the bar more visibility in a higher-traffic location. At this time, Aceto has no plans to host live bands, as Port City did, but that could change in the future.
Patricia Washburn lives near Arcadia’s Preble Street bar and is sad to see it move, but contributed to the GoFundMe campaign to help make it happen because she loves the place and wants it to survive.
“I didn’t go in there all the time, but they were my kind of neighborhood bar when I needed one. They cater to the nerds, which I am one. They are really nice people,” said Washburn, 55. “I don’t want to go to the Old Port and hang out with the college kids when I want to have an adult beverage. I like that they are in my neighborhood, and it feels like a home for me.”
In addition to being nice people, the folks at Arcadia also are good neighbors, Washburn said, noting that Aceto often aided homeless people by offering food and water and helping out in other ways. “I want to see them make it,” she said. “They are great people.”