Meet the New Grown-Up Arcade in Town – Start Bar St. Louis

Last week we had a chance to visit a brand-new entry on the STL bar scene. Start Bar St. Louis (1000 Spruce St. St. Louis, MO 63102) officially opened its doors in mid-July, and judging by the crowd last Friday, they’ve hit upon a winning formula.

©2016 OohStLou
Start Bar Branding by Atomic Dust – Photo ©2016 OohStLou
©2016 OohStLou
Interior, Start Bar St. Louis ©2016 OohStLou

Start is an arcade/bar hybrid, mixing the best of 80s and 90s arcade culture with the fun of being over 21. The bar serves up boozy milkshakes and slushies, a huge range of local beers and unique snacks like a Cheetos-based Krispie Treat (think Cheetos and marshmallow, if you can.)

The space is gorgeous. Local firm Atomic Dust did the branding, interiors and website design and they hit a lot of high notes. Check out the Space Invaders detail in the ladies bathroom and these amazing light fixtures.

Interiors Gallery Start Bar St. Louis

There is a beautiful use of color and lighting, and the high, open ceilings transform what could be a crowded and overwhelming space (think lots of arcade noise, plus lots of bar noise, plus multiple TVs playing different programs, plus a dense crowd) into one that seems airy and navigable. Large vintage prints of arcade-goers and classic game designers adorn the walls.

(On a personal note, I would have loved to have seen them use some vintage photos that weren’t white dudes. This seems like a really obvious oversight coming from a pretty diverse team at Atomic Dust, however I do believe all the owners at Start are white guys, so maybe that was their preference/oversight. I was alive in the 80s and 90s, and I was at arcades, so I know women and people of color existed in those spaces. Here’s some info on the women in early game design, if you’re interested.)

Start Bar has a main level that includes a bar, a small kitchen, tons of arcade games, a small open Nintendo lounge and skee-ball. If I understood the manager correctly, they’re also planning on opening up some patio space in the future.

Aside from candy and snacks available for purchase, the kitchen also serves up unique pizza creations like this week’s special: “chicken, bacon and ranch with crumbled Cool Ranch Doritos.”

Main Level Gallery Start Bar St. Louis

The upstairs area features several smaller lounges that can be reserved for private parties and events. Here’s where you can challenge your friends to classic NES games in comfort. (To book private parties, contact parties@startbarstl.com.)

Upstairs Gallery Start Bar St. Louis

Start Bar is absolutely a photographer’s paradise, and I was there shooting for about two hours. After some time, what struck me was how much fun everyone was having. The staff were incredibly friendly and helpful, and the patrons were having a blast. It really is nice to be in an adult-oriented space and have an activity to participate in, rather than just sit around drinking and thinking weary adult thoughts and eventually starting a fight about politics with the person next to you.

Also, the expressions of concentration on the player’s faces were absolutely delightful. These are the faces of WINNERS, people.

Put on Your Game Face @ Start Bar

Finally, I am not going to be the one to tell the world that there is a secret hidden rogue’s gallery behind an out-of-order arcade game that conceals a fake door, but there is TOTALLY a secret hidden rogue’s gallery behind an out-of-order arcade game that conceals a fake door! Totally. So cool. Want for self. The bar staff will show it to you if you ask nicely. They might show it to you if you ask rudely, but don’t be that guy.

Rogue’s Gallery

Start Bar is a great space, a great concept, and well executed. I predict it will do well here, and I hope that next time I visit I can actually find and play Centipede (Centipede has always been my jam.) A++ would recommend. (But please do something about all the white dudes on the walls, now seriously.)

Start Bar is open Wednesday-Friday from 4 p.m.-1 a.m and Saturday-Sunday from 12 p.m.-1 a.m. Street parking, but if you’re going to be drinking, take a cab. Visit them on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/Startbarstl/

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