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Double Tap Beercade opens largest arcade bar in Iowa City
New Ped Mall offering complements sister bars upstairs
IOWA CITY — Prepare to get your game on in a new basement that has become Iowa City’s largest arcade bar.
Off the Pedestrian Mall, Double Tap Beercade is popularizing a trend that started with earlier joints like SpareMe in Iowa City and The Quarter Barrel in Cedar Rapids. With nostalgia serving as one of the biggest draws, the arcade that opened at the end of June has modernized a favorite past time — giving adult an excuse to tap into their inner child.
If you go
What: Double Tap Beercade
Where: 121 E. College St., Iowa City (on the Ped Mall)
Hours: 3 p.m. to midnight, Monday through Friday; noon to midnight Saturday and Sunday
Phone: (319) 855-5230
Details: This arcade with nearly 50 machines offers old classics, modern games, artisan pizza, craft beer and cocktails.
But the place to drink while neon colors and TV screens glow on your eyes isn’t just a place to relive the past — it’s part of a larger trend accelerated in part by the pandemic.
“Ten years ago, it was a novelty. Seven years ago, it became trendy. Today, I’d say it’s a bona fide genre of the (bar) industry,” said Darin Beck, managing partner and president of Paramount Bar Company, the bar’s parent company.
Video games and the arcades popular in decades before home gaming systems became the norm are certainly nothing new. But what’s trending in places like Double Tap isn’t the presence of the machines — it’s the environment on which they’re built.
With almost 50 games, the variety ranges from the classics like Frogger and Pac-Man, to refurbished nostalgias like pinball or Skee-Ball and modern options like the Simpsons and machines that can pit four players against each other. Some games offer modern twists to old classics, like multiplayer Pac-Man.
The Iowa City site is Double Tap’s second, after piloting the concept in Cedar Falls. The Iowa City location “came out of the gate here with all the bigger guns,” Beck said, putting the most popular games on the floor for their opening.
“They’re getting more popular now than they’ve ever been. COVID has something to do with it — people got so tired of spending so much time cooped up at home that they enjoy the social aspect of it now,” Beck added.
With hard-to-find games that offer game play unparalleled even with modern technology, some of the offerings will rotate over time.
“You’re getting to play with people,” said Aaron Schurman, co-owner of Paramount Bar Company. “We play a lot of multiplayer games (remotely), but we don’t see the other person. The best memories are made when you’re playing with friends together.”
Like many good memories, Double Taps games are centered around a bar with craft beer, cocktails and artisan pizza offerings.
In addition to personal-size pizzas and custom options, you can level up your experience with options like crab rangoon, spinach artichoke or jalapeno popper pizzas.
The homemade pizza dough was developed by Beck, who owned pizza shops in the ’90s. The crust is thin and firm, but not flimsy or floppy — crunchy edges brushed with butter and herbs have some give as you eat your way to the center of the pizza.
Twelve tap handles are dedicated to craft beers. But if you’re looking for something less hoppy to wash down your pies, themed cocktails like the 1UP shot, Peachy Princess, Ghouly Ghost and Warp Pipe offer fruity flavors that pack more of a punch.
“Gamers are a different breed of people,” Beck said. “They’re looking for a completely different vibe, and they don’t find it almost any place but arcade bars.”
“People look for something to do when they’re out, that’s what makes it nice,” Schurman said. “People are gravitating toward anything that’s just a little bit different.”
The basement concept was developed in conjunction with The Roxxy and The Stuffed Olive, both of which also recently opened their second locations in Iowa City, just up the stairs. Together, Beck and Schurman wanted the trio to be “the perfect night out.”
“It was engineered for Cedar Falls on Main Street — synergistic venues with crossover that didn’t all attract the same audience,” Beck said.
Through a partnership with Cedar Falls-based tech company SciPlay, which Schurman founded, Double Tap has an advantage over competitors. With an arsenal of resources to procure and refurbish games, Schuman said Double Tap has the ability to replace broken games on the floor within 24 hours.
Paramount Bar Company was born in 2019 as its investors eyed a shift away from full-service restaurants toward more bar-forward concepts. With myriad challenges facing the restaurant industry — from labor shortages and inflation to rising food costs and supply chain interruptions — the move has paid early dividends.
“It turned out to be the best decision we’ve ever made,” Beck said.
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