Caroline Groff, Staff Writer
On any Saturday evening, the streets and businesses of the Central West End are bound to be busy. The arcade bar, Up-Down (405 N. Euclid Avenue), is no exception. While it is a fully functioning bar, the arcade layout is the highlight of the business model.
The throwback-infused arcade bar has had a rocky history in its current neighborhood. The issues have revolved around a group of incessantly unhappy neighbors, but more importantly around the status of their liquor license—which can be important when the word “bar” is in your business description.
The legal back and forth started in 2017 as owner John Ivey petitioned those in the neighborhood to allow the business’s liquor license request. After Up-Down seemingly won their strenuous battle of about two years, the court began questioning the status of their precious license again in June of this year when Up-Down was just opening its doors. The court stated that they were unsure of the legitimacy of how they were granted their license. “We cannot determine whether the Hearing Officer properly followed the ordinance or review whether the decision is supported by competent and substantial evidence upon the whole record,” stated Judge Gary M. Gaertner Jr.
While there are legal tie ups, it hasn’t stopped the bar from keeping their doors open. In a statement to the Riverfront Times, Ivey said, “We have a liquor license. We have not had that taken away, and the court has not directed the city to take it away.” Even with all of the backroom stresses, Up-Down has kept business running as usual. And business seems to be booming.
On this particular Saturday, the place is packed as the TV screens are split between playing throwback WrestleMania showdowns and John Carpenter’s “Big Trouble in Little China.” Prince’s “Little Red Corvette” blaring over the speakers. There’s a little bit of something for everyone, and the games mirror this motto. The nostalgia crosses multiple generations, ranging from classics like Frogger and Street Fighter to modern masterpieces like Dance Dance Revolution which almost always has a group watching and waiting for another to finish.
Whether you’re bringing along your own spare change or getting some logo-pressed tokens from the bartenders or token machines, there is plenty of room for people to spread out and pick their poison. Even when most of the games are taken, watching the patrons battle the machines can be just as entertaining as playing them.
While the arcade games occupy the main floor and basement, the back of the building offers an outside area that allows for a quieter change of pace. The patio is enclosed by a tall, shrub-filled wall with a neon sign stating, “It was all a dream.” With plenty of high-top tables and benches, patrons can choose to relax and use the giant Connect Four boards and Jenga blocks. The bar aspect of Up-Down’s business can’t be forgotten. They offer an extensive drink selection of over 60 beers and a variety of mixed drinks. Pizza by the slice comes out at $3.50 or get a whole pie for the group for $20. Beer and pizza—the bar checklist is complete.
The Up-Down bar scene is a sentimental change of pace. The communal game space offers an even more light-hearted ease to a pub atmosphere. Two worlds perfectly collide as childhood memories get mixed with Bud Light.