Last year the owner of Newtown’s 1989 Kitchen and Arcade, Ben Campbell, decided to trade out the kitchen and transform the space at the rear of his King Street venue into a neon-lit Tokyo-style back-alley arcade space. He bought three pinball machines (a first for 1989), enhanced his tap-beer offering from three to six (with a focus on Aussie craft beer) and made over the cocktail list.
While 1989 remains a gaming hub that honours the golden age of arcade gaming (the ’80s and the early ’90s), now with more than 20 arcade machines, along with board games and retro game consoles, Campbell says it’s first and foremost a small bar, albeit one with a pop-culture bent and old movie posters on the walls.
“The cocktail list has been levelled up to not only include the classics, such as Espresso Martinis, Mojitos and Aperol Spritz, but video-game-inspired creations such as It’s On Like Donkey Kong [a coconut and banana liqueur cocktail] and Chocy Breakfast – a Baileys and Kahlúa mix topped with Coco Pops and served with a spoon,” he says. Between 5pm and 7pm, Espresso Martinis will set you back just $10.
But the closure of the kitchen doesn’t mean the end of snacks at the bar. Campbell has partnered with Rocketboy Pizza two doors down, which now delivers to 1989. A change in licensing also means the bar can now open from 12pm on Saturdays.
That means more time to enjoy the nostalgic games. The three new pinball machines are Deadpool, The Addams Family and Star Wars Episode One, plus there's a collection of more than 45 board games. Three classic gaming consoles are scattered around the venue, with an extensive collection of Nintendo 64 titles to choose from, including Mario Kart and Goldeneye.
The bar will still host competitive video-game tournaments on both classic arcade games and consoles, with bar tabs and trophies as prizes. “In 2018, the bar held Australia’s first ever official Classic Tetris Championships in partnership with the Classic Tetris World Championships in America,” says Campbell. “The annual event is coming up again in July.”
Other 2019 competitions will include Super Street Fighter 2 Turbo, Space Invaders and Super Smash Bros.
When asked if he gets nervous about people playing his own game collection, Campbell says “some owners would obviously be terrified of people spilling a drink on an arcade machine and ruining them”, but he loves watching the punters. “I love seeing people on a busy night all crowded round Ninja Turtle. It's that social aspect,” he says. “I really enjoy seeing them being played.”
1989 Arcade Bar
22 King Street, Newtown
Mon to Wed 5pm–11pm
Thu & Fri 5pm–12am Sat 12pm-12am Sun 5pm–11pm