In the spirit of the long ago “game over” Hi Score and all things where cost can be measured in quarters, two north of the Cut Bally-ites are opening the next location of their Seattle amusement hall empire on Capitol Hill. John John’s Gameroom is slated to begin play at E Olive Way and Melrose this fall.
“Add-a-Ball II sounds like a dumb sequel,” partner Travis Echert said. “Things are never as good as the original.”
John John’s, then, will be its own game but based in the success Echert and Brad Johnsen found with their original Add-a-Ball Amusements venture they opened in Fremont to start 2012 after operating a scooter repair shop at the location and deciding to transition to a new way to make a living.
“It’s kind of beautiful because we don’t ever have to go to bank,” Echert said. “The quarters become ones, the ones become fives, buying beer, the fives becomes twenties.”
The bar will be a beer and wine joint. The partners, at this point, aren’t interested in the added complication and costs of doing spirits and anything more than snacks. The space will be simple and filled with games. The three-month buildout will be less about building and more about paring down, setting up and plugging in.
The news pairs nicely with two other stories CHS has been following related to the intersection of amusements and beery good times. Earlier this summer, we told you about the new gaming cafe being built by the people behind Gamma Ray Games. The Kickstarter-driven Raygun Lounge gets new features by the day thanks to generous and eager crowdsourcing and is expected to open on E Pine in the old Travelers space later this month. Meanwhile, Unicorn’s underground little bro Narwhal has added some quarter-driven entertainment to Pike/Pine’s offerings.
John John’s will take the place left vacant after Faire Gallery and Cafe closed in June following six years in the space. For Echert, opening their next arcade bar on Capitol HIll makes good sense from a demographic standpoint — but the former Faire space was perhaps a more important factor.
“I definitely love Capitol Hill and obviously there is a ton of people there,” he said. “It’s really that space. It’s not huge but we’ll be able to fit a bunch of machines upstairs. It’s kind of a quirky space.”
The owner of the space John John’s will call home told CHS earlier this summer that he is considering selling the building he has owned since 2005. But even if he sells it, Martin Vance said he is likely to pass the 1920s era building to another person like himself who bought the building seven years ago when he was looking for office space on the Hill and found it was a better deal to buy a building than rent a space in one.
“If I have to sell the building, the best value is for an owner/occupier,” Vance said. “Mortgage rates are low. You can actually buy a building.”
“I prefer to find that person — the person that wants to run the building in that space. In the meantime, I will find tennants that will bring interesting stuff to the Hill.”
After our conversation with him, CHS trusts Vance on this position because he seems like a person who genuinely believes in the independent spirit. And his company built a pretty wicked Mickey Mouse Clubhouse app.
Echert and Johnsen like games, too, of course and are known for their connoisseurship of great pinball machines and arcade games. Unlike many bars that rent their machines, the duo owns most of theirs — or borrows them. With help from a friend and collector, John John’s Gameroom will also feature the occasional one-of-a-kind specialties that sometimes rotate through the Fremont location. Vintages will range from 1967 to 1992 with much of the arcade action coming from the 1980s golden years. Echert says the Capitol Hill mix might feature a few more nostalgic choices from manufactures like Nintendo but their hearts and minds are open to knowing more about what Hill pinballers and video gamers are into.
“We’re looking for suggestions,” Echert said. “A lot of games we didn’t start with at Add-a-Ball and we found after people asked for them.”
You can learn more at add-a-ball.com.