WICKER PARK — Just in time to meet a June expansion deadline, the owners of an arcade bar in Wicker Park unveiled an addition that nearly doubles capacity and provides space for a dedicated wall of pinball machines.
Danny Marks said he and his brother are "super excited" about the added space from a neighboring storefront which is connected to the bar's main location.
The addition houses 11 pinball games including the just-released Metallica title and refurbished classics like The Addams Family and Theatre of Magic.
Along with more space, Emporium's inventory of games has grown too.
At its opening last June, Emporium had about 30 games, and as of Thursday Marks estimates there are 65 to 70 games available to play, with the majority classic 80s and 90s upright arcade games such as Moon Patrol, Pac-Man, Galaga, Centipede and NBA Jam, among others.
The 20-foot movie screen will play movies and project live pinball tournaments, as it did for a release of Stern Pinball's new 'Metallica' title earlier this month.
Jody Dankberg, 37, director of marketing for Stern Pinball, which supples its newest titles to Emporium, said 'beer cades' around the city give twenty-somethings who "grew up playing Xbox and Nintendo in their homes" a chance to be exposed to arcade games in a social environment.
"We are really into what they're doing [at Emporium], love the barcade concept because it's getting people into social gaming, public gaming, location play... It's neat to see five people lined up to play Galaga or NBA Jam," Dankberg said.
Dankberg added: "It's like the 1980s again."
A privately-held company based in Melrose Park, Stern is riding the wave of a pinball renaissance by releasing three new titles each year with 50 percent of its business being exports to countries like France and England, owner Gary Stern, 68, said.
"There's a resurgence in pinball worldwide. People are buying games for their homes and there's 17,000 players in 30 countries and growing who playing pinball competitively," Stern said.
Stern said new ventures like Emporium and Lakeview's Headquarters Beercade are becoming "very popular" and are "important for the future in terms of getting young adults interested in pinball as well as classic upright 80s and 90s arcade games."
Stern said his company's latest release, Metallica, is unique from other machines because it contains 12 full pieces of music performed by Metallica in the game, while other games only have short music clips.
"You should be able to dance to a pinball machine in my opinion," Stern said.
The current list of Emporium's pinball machines (some of which have more than one machine available to play) is below.