(Thanks to @supcat and @mosesplan on Twitter for the tip)
When people ask me for advice on opening an arcade, I try to always point out that you need to look into the laws/rules/regulations/taxes/fees of the city, county or state where you operate. The reason being – some governments still are hostile towards arcades or the idea of them, for various reasons. The reasoning used, which can also be found among some landlords, is that when they hear the word arcade, suddenly visions pop up in their mind of this scene from Robocop 2; or this one from Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles… or this one from Death Wish 4. The reality is a closer to the arcade seen in Wreck-It Ralph (sans the games being alive :P) but that only seems to be sticking with the younger generation at this point. Either way, what we find below is a rare example of why you should finding out if your local city either bans arcades or requires you to make a case before the city council to open one, so you can be prepared for it.
Super Arcade has been in the news a bit in recent times, from their crowdfunding efforts to expand to having to temporarily close up shop thanks to a landlord dispute. The owner, Mike Watson, has been looking for a new spot for the Super Arcade to call home and he thought he found it in Azusa, CA with a spot in a strip mall there. As required by the city, a permit was needed, which he had to seek that from the city council there – who voted it down 3-1 after the hearing. While this was a setback, Mike will get another chance in 3 weeks to make his case again.
You can watch the hearing on Twitch; warning on profanity, particularly in the sidebar of reactions about it from the anonymous commentors watching the stream and a little from the person recording. I’ve never watched a city council meeting before but given the subject matter in this instance, I do find it fascinating. The first 18 minutes feature people railing against the arcade for a variety of reasons; around the 18 min mark we see the first defender of the arcade appear, where she talks about how she feels safe there with her fiancée (unidentified villianous ‘men’ are constantly brought up in the first 18 min., so she makes a point that she’s a woman that has hung out in arcades without an issue). Her fiancée shows up as well and makes the point that people like him are the regulars that support the arcade on a consistent basis; also made the great point that regulars of the business would end up supporting the other local businesses (buying food or other items). Following him, the argument is made in support of arcade regulars creating a tight-knit community and bringing in support for other local businesses.
I can feel for citizens wanting to keep their community up to a certain standard of safety and cleanliness but the examples used against Super Arcade are more anecdotal and emotional than fact-based and none of them took into consideration that the Super Arcade has been an existing business. Existing businesses have these weird things called “track records” which means that one can go and look up whether or not these “the sky will fall!” issues were actually issues or not. Fortunately later in the video, their track record is brought up but it does not seem to have been argued to the effect to change minds. Other arcades do exist, especially in California where it should be easy to discover whether or not they attract the ‘bad element’ or give people a positive alternative to some other potential activities.
Several of the people bring up the crime or potential crime around the shopping center where Super Arcade was looking at. I find it hard to follow the logic that if this is a shopping center where MURDER RAPE AND FIGHTS are allegedly taking place non-stop then: 1) this is all happening without the presence of an arcade in the city anyways, why is that and where is the solid evidence that an arcade would directly cause or worsen this problem 2) why would anyone want to open up a business there if this place is as bad as a warzone 3) why don’t they call for the police to clean it up if it is such common knowledge. Mike Watson is able to defend himself around the 32min mark and points out that he spoke with the police department of Azusa and they looked into his history and found that there was not any issue.
Another argument I find very strange, from the second lady, is that a market used to be there but it recently failed. Her solution as opposed to an arcade is….another market. She then goes on to complain that any business will need to be secure from all the ‘strange men’ lurking about, then she veers back into a laundry list of businesses that people would anecdotally like to see there. When I’m hearing that argument, I wonder, so why did that business fail? Why didn’t she support it tooth and nail when it was there if it was so important to the community? Businesses don’t operate and pay their bills based upon comfort wishes and warm fuzzies of ‘oh, I would like to see that there’. If a particular type of business failed in a location, then chances are that the same kind will fail there again.
The notion that the city can make a bunch of businesses appear out of the ethereal mysts of someone’s imagination is ridiculous but something I’ve heard before. Businesses are created by people with a plan, money/funding and desire to offer particular services/products which cater to a demand. If demand is there, the business will thrive since it will make the money to pay the bills. If demand isn’t there, then it fails. It’s all Economics 101. It should be so simple to grasp but for whatever reason isn’t.
While one guy did some research, he got it completely wrong on the bathroom to be all worried about public urination. The person right after him ended up refuting the claim that there would be no bathroom as she mentioned there would be one, something also pointed out by subsequent speakers. I imagine that no arcade operator would go into something like this expecting that to be an issue but there you go.
When the city council speaks up, while they commend Mike for how he ran the business, apparently having a game called Street Fighter disqualifies you from having any “quality” that they are looking for. They don’t offer up what would give it quality, which is always a frustration you can come across when dealing with bureaucracy and them not defining what it is that they really want from you. I think in the follow-up session, Mike should argue this point, that no matter what arcades are titled, the average cost of a game is $7500. The arcade version of Street Fighter IV could run between $10000-$20000 for a full dedicated setup – is that the sort of money that is spent on a “low quality” business? This isn’t a GameStop loaded with $60 games. I don’t know what the overall cost of the equipment is for SA(that will vary from arcade to arcade), but I’m sure he could use that as a point to fight back. Although if they still have made up their minds that the location isn’t right for an arcade for some odd reason (despite overwhelming evidence that the arcade did not have security problems in Walnut), then it is a battle that will likely continue to a different location. Hopefully the outcry against the decision from social media will help change their minds.
I do applaud the defenders that were there for Super Arcade. When it comes to support of such a business, they are true Arcade Heroes to show up and speak up.
What are your thoughts on this?