The pandemic could be game over for the arcade industry

Some Lakewood businesses trying to stop museum
Posted at 6:14 PM, Jan 14, 2021
and last updated 2021-01-14 21:41:07-05

LONGMONT, Colo. -- The same pandemic that caused video game sales to soar has put arcades on the brink of bankruptcy.

Bob Burnham owns Paradise Pinball & Amusements. His company owns and maintains pinball machines, video games, and pool tables at bars and restaurants across Colorado.

Only 3 of his 45 locations are open.

“We are directly tied to the restaurants and the bars. When they are closed down, we are closed down,” Burnham said.

He is part of an industry of Colorado amusement operators that saw the plug pulled on their business during the pandemic.

He gave Denver7 a tour of his games at Pumphouse Brewery in Longmont. The restaurant and bar still closed, he is undecided on when to reopen after some indoor dining restrictions were recently lifted. His games sit silent and some are being used as space to store restaurant equipment.

“That’s a $7,000 air hockey table just sitting there and it hasn’t generated any income since March,” Burnham said.

Many restaurants are asking him to remove the games altogether to make space for more tables because indoor dining is restricted.

Restaurants receive a lot of benefits from partnering with vendors like Paradise Pinball & Amusements.

The games are a draw for customers, and restaurants split the profits with the vendor.

“It extends the time that they are here. It extends the alcohol sales and the food sales,” said Stephanie Hicks, with the Tavern League of Colorado.

But Burnham and other gaming operators are at their breaking point just like the restaurants and bars they serve. If they close, it could have impacts on restaurants and bars when things do eventually return to normal.

“Basically, it’s an ecosystem. One cannot survive without the other,” Hicks said.

Burnham hopes lawmakers will loosen restrictions soon and give them a chance to survive. He has been sanitizing machines and putting up signage to remind customers to wash their hands after.

“If they are going to keep us closed down, you have to help us out a little bit. The entertainment side of this industry could be gone forever,” Burnham said.