It used to be that you’d walk into a bar to have a drink and might find they had a couple pinball machines, too.

But in Greater Portland these days, you can walk into an arcade to play pinball – or Skee-Ball or bubble hockey or video games – and find they’ve got a really nice bar set up as well.

The Portland area is experiencing a mini-boom in arcade bars. Arcadia in Portland, which had been closed for much of the pandemic, moved to the former Port City Music Hall space on Congress Street and reopened in January. A new pinball-centric bar called Wessie’s Den opened in Westbrook in February. And Sharkey’s Arcade and Bar is planning a mid-May opening in Biddeford, in the 5 Points Shopping Center.

Victoria Hanrahan watches while Anthony Catanese, both of Portland, plays the video game Rampage at Arcadia. Ben McCanna/Staff Photographer

Arcade bars are not a new trend. The chain Barcade began in Brooklyn in 2004 and now has locations across the country. Many major cities have had their own arcade bars for a while now. Arcadia first opened in Portland in 2014 as Arcadia National Bar on Preble Street. But it closed in March of 2020 because of COVID-19 and almost went out of business. A GoFundMe campaign raised more than $50,000 and helped the arcade bar relocate to a much larger space.

Portland may be seeing more of them right now because after two years of pandemic-induced inactivity, people want to get out and have fun. Plus, there’s the powerful nostalgia attached to arcades and the pinball or video games of our youth. Throw in some alcohol, and you’ve got a perfect place to escape from daily drudgery.

“There’s definitely been a resurgence, people pulling out old video games and pinball machines and dusting them off,” said Scott Smith, a co-owner of Wessie’s. “People, I think, are looking for fun new places to go to, some place where they can do something interactive, not just sit at the bar and watch sports on TV.”


On a recent Monday at Arcadia in Portland, the massive arcade floor had a couple dozen people playing games and sipping drinks by 6 p.m. Most of the game players were in their 20s and 30s, with a few older.

Victoria Hanrahan, 29, of Portland, said she’s been coming to Arcadia about once a week since it reopened. She likes that it doesn’t seem crowded most nights – the space used to be a 500-capacity concert hall – and has several favorite games, including the Quick & Crash shooting gallery game and something called Flaming Finger, where you have to trace your finger perfectly along some lights on the game, before they go out. She wins tickets on that one, and those can be used to enter a raffle for prizes. She’s hoping someday to win a gift certificate for Coast City Comics.

“It’s just a cool set-up, there’s a nice vibe to it. You don’t have to drink if you don’t want to,” said Hanrahan, who runs her own hand-lettered sign business, Victory Design Co. “It’s a fun way to spend some time.”

Liz Roth and Matt Callahan of Boston play the video game Area 51 at Arcadia in Portland. Ben McCanna/Staff Photographer

Friends Caitlin Flynn of Windham and Rebeka Sobodacha of Portland, both 38, had come to Arcadia to see what the former Port City Music Hall space had become. They were impressed with both the game selection and the drink selection. Sobodacha recommended the rum punch, and Flynn was happy that the place is open Mondays, when so many restaurants and bars are closed.

“It’s nice to be able to come to a place like this, and it’s not crowded with tourists,” said Flynn.

Here’s is a closer look at the arcade bars in or coming soon to southern Maine.


Wessie’s Den, 212 Brown St., Westbrook. On Facebook: Wessie’s Den

Wessie’s is an ’80s style video arcade and pub with about 40 games, including vintage pinball machines. There’s a full bar and plans to open a kitchen in the summer. The place had been been a bar and music venue called Live at 212, which closed during the pandemic, said Smith, a co-owner. It hosts a pinball tournament on Tuesday nights at 7 p.m. Some of the classic video arcade games people of a certain age might remember include Punch-Out and Mortal Kombat. It’s named for the 10-foot-long snake reportedly seen near the Presumpscot River in Westbrook about five years ago and dubbed Wessie by locals. Hours vary, but it’s usually open in the afternoon until 9 p.m. or midnight. It’s closed on Wednesdays.

Wessie’s Den in Westbrook has a large pinball selection. Chance Viles / American Journal

Arcadia, 504 Congress St., Portland. On Facebook: ArcadiaPortland

Now that Arcadia has relocated to a former 500-capacity concert venue, there are some 100 games of all kinds and size, said Dave Aceto, one of the owners. There are rows of pinball machines, shooting gallery games, a bubble hockey table and Skee-Ball machines, plus lots of video games, including Guitar Hero. There’s also a four-sided bar in the front of the place, closer to the light of the windows. In most of the space, the lights of the machines glow in the relative darkness. There’s also a food court for people who need fuel before gaming. The games are coin-operated, with most costing 25 to 50 cents. It’s open Thursday through Monday, starting at 5 p.m.

People play games at Arcadia in Portland on Monday. Ben McCanna/Staff Photographer

Sharkey’s Arcade and Bar, 420 Alfred St., Biddeford. On Instagram:

Sharkey’s is a planned arcade with 20 or so games and pinball machines, as well Skee-Ball, plus an axe-throwing pit, said Brandi Delloiarcono, the manager. The arcade will have beer and wine and be located in the 5 Points Shopping Center. The owners currently run the indoor golf center – simulated golf – above Mulligan’s restaurant in Biddeford. A mid-May opening is planned.

There are some 300 games to play at Round One Bowling & Amusement in the Maine Mall in South Portland. Photo by Serena Lopes

Round One Bowling & Amusement, Maine Mall, South Portland.

Though not truly an arcade bar, Round One Bowling & Amusement is a giant arcade, and beer, wine, liquor and food are served. It opened in 2018 in the Maine Mall, but perhaps you didn’t get a chance to check it out before the pandemic. There some 300 games on the arcade floor, including pinball, shooting games, fighting games, crane machines, music-based games, basketball and Skee-Ball. It’s open 10 a.m. to 2 a.m. every day.

Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or login first for digital access. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.

filed under: