Last week, Facebook feeds all over town blew up with the announcement of a new bar. Why the fuss over another bar? Because Transmission isn’t just a bar — it’s a bar and an arcade at the same time.
Owners Cam Powell and Josh Rainwater along with Bradley Randolph have been planning Transmission Arcade for over a year, and now they have announced that they will begin hosting pop-up events in March in the lead-up to the grand opening of the business.
While many bars in town have a few arcade games in them, Columbia doesn’t have a true "barcade," where the arcade part is just as important as the bar part, and Transmission is here to remedy that. (The actual name "barcade" has been trademarked by a chain of such businesses in the Northeast US, by the way, though many people use the word generically to describe a mashup of an arcade and a bar.)
“I went to my first barcade about four years ago at Boxcar in Raleigh and was hooked instantly,” says Powell (who is, full disclosure, an occasional Free Times contributor). “Any chance I've gotten to travel to cities with one since, I always try and make a point to go and play some games while I enjoy a drink. When I would return home to Columbia, it felt like there was an arcade-sized void.”
Rainwater felt the void as well, and sees an arcade’s appeal as an important place to relax.
“In most of life's aspects, failure isn't an option,” he says. “In Ms. Pac-Man, failure is inevitable, but it's okay. It costs you a quarter, you've learned that those pesky ghosts can ALSO use the warps, and now you're ready for round two.”
As you might have guessed from the Ms. Pac-Man reference, the selection of games at Transmission isn’t just going to be Big Buck Hunter or a popular iPhone app game blown up on a big screen like you find at Dave and Buster’s. Transmission plans to focus on classic games from the '80s and '90s arcade heyday.
“The name Transmission Arcade is kind of our ode to classic analog,” says Powell. “Sure, we might have some digital games on the floor at times, but the games we fell in love with are the ones that are a mess of wires, capacitors, chips and motherboards that combine to make a beautiful machine.”
That attention to esthetic will even go all the way to the music played in the bar.
“We plan on playing vinyl records as the shop soundtrack as well to take that philosophy one step further," Powell says.
Then, of course, there’s the bar part of the enterprise. Transmission plans to start off with beer and wine offerings. They will take a page from local bottle shop Craft and Draft, who are also running beer for their upcoming arcade pop-ups.
“The plan is to have 12 rotating taps, 20 to 30 more bottled and canned beers, plus 10 to 12 wines on the menu at all times,” says Powell. “We want to treat our drink menu like a bottle shop, constantly rotating in fresh and interesting products that you likely can't get at just any other bar around town.”
While they finalize the permanent home for Transmission, they will start hosting arcade pop-ups at various businesses.
“We will be doing pop-ups at Craft & Draft, Soda City Market, Indie Bits & hopefully more during March & April,” Rainwater says. “Right now we are most excited about spreading the word and getting Columbia as hooked on pinball as we are.”
Transmission also plans to host semi-regular gaming nights at Bonus Gameroom on Devine Street until settling in their permanent location.
“With no whammies, we’ll be hosting our first event open to the public on St. Patrick’s Day weekend,” says Powell.
There is also a confirmed date of March 20 for their pop-up at Craft and Draft, where they will be installing five arcade machines in the bottle shop for the day.
“There's something special about playing games you haven't played since your youth,” says Powell. “There's something extra special about getting to play them with a beer in your hand as an adult.”
Judging by the attention their announcement has been getting on social media, it looks like Columbians are more than ready for it and are already scrounging to get a handful of quarters together. If you’re one of them, follow Transmission Arcade on Facebook, @transmissionarcade on Instagram, and keep reading Free Times to find out about their upcoming pop-up events.