Barcade partners (from left) Paul Kermizian, Scott and Kevin Beard and Pete Langway at the opening of Barcade, Newark.
By Tony Forder
Back in 2004, a British nephew of mine was visiting the NYC area along with some friends. I wanted to show them Brooklyn and it so happened Paul Kermizian and his buddies were opening their first Barcade bar. My nephew, Simon, was in video production and so was Paul, or at least had been before he got it into bar proprietorship.
A graduate in film from the University of Syracuse, Paul had produced a documovie, American Beer, about a trip with three friends visiting 20 breweries coast to coast. My nephew and friends’ favorite part of the Brooklyn visit was when, waiting to cross the street, an SUV swerved around the corner, nearly taking out a man and his dog. “Hey, that’s ma daaawg!” the man shouted giving the visiting Brits a classic Brooklyn accent.
Barcade wasn’t quite open, and although he had no beer to serve, Paul affably shared with us his somewhat daunting first bar enterprise. After that I made a habit of showing up before official openings of his new places – Gutter, a bowling alley with a craft beer bar, also in Brooklyn; that time I brought along a 6-pack. Next was Jersey City – made the Grand Opening; Philadelphia – I got there a couple of days after the opening; Connecticut – didn’t make that one, and still haven’t; Manhattan (Chelsea) – yep, made that one; and most recently Newark, NJ (Aug.) – yes, I was seen at one of three Grand Opening evenings. (Almost forgot, along the way they opened a Barcade at St. Mark’s Place in the East Village). While liquids were the exclusive offerings at Barcade’s outset, food has become increasingly incorporated as new stores open. In Newark, for example, they are relying on a big lunch crowd – at least in the early going (you can get a beer, sandwich and fries for $15!). Bar pies, burgers, wings and salads are all featured as well as a long list of sandwiches – if you’re hungry, try the Fat Ironbound that comes with grilled chicken, ham, fries, bacon and queso chihuahua.
Obviously Barcade has established a winning formula – American craft beer and classic arcade video games in good working order. Says Kermizian, “I think we just had good timing. We were people who liked video games and craft beer. It seemed like a good idea to combine the two.” In the early oughts, craft beer was accelerating in popularity as was draft. Barcade decided to go all-American draft craft, with the exception of Guinness. “That was the only nitro stout around at the time. We eventually phased it out.”
Others around the country have imitated the Barcade concept, but none it seems have quite duplicated their success. Attention to detail is one of the keys, says Paul. “We have two full-time video game techs on staff to source and maintain the machines,” he said. (And, yes Paul admits to being a serious gamer – his favorite? Well, that’s like asking his favorite beer!) Barcade maintains a warehouse where machines are stored. The units are also rotated through the different bars to give local clientele variety; and they recently added pinball.
Paul still has the same partners he started with – President Pete Langway focuses on expansions and new locations, and brothers Kevin and Scott Beard handle operations and marketing. Paul oversees everything as CEO, and while he originated the beer program, they now have a Beverage Director as part of their staff of 130.
As Paul acknowledges, beer choices have changed considerably in Barcade’s 13-year history. “Of course there’s even more to choose from these days,” he said. Indeed, Barcade could easily join the hyper local trend, but their philosophy is to mix the local with some of their more traditional offerings like Dogfish Head, Victory and Sly Fox and Climax. One beer you’ll find on at all their locations is Fisherman’s Brew, a lager, brewed by Cape Anne Brewing in Massachusetts. That’s because Jeremy Goldberg, a high school buddy of Paul’s, and a participant in that epic road trip is a part of this family-owned brewery.
Goldberg may not be able to keep up however, since Barcade is about to take a giant step across the country. Or, rather, two steps with openings planned in Los Angeles and Detroit for 2019.