Capital City Classic Arcade is hoping to clear the final hurdle in its quest for a permanent home in New West.
Brad and Maryanne Eyers first approached city hall four years ago about their hopes of opening a classic video arcade in New Westminster. After a series of hurdles, they were finally able to open Capital City Arcade in Sapperton on July 4, 2019 – but only temporarily under a temporary use permit.
Now, they’re in the midst of a process to rezone the property at 457 East Columbia St., so they can permanently operate an arcade at the site.
In addition, they are seeking support from the city and the province for a liquor primary licence so they can serve beer and wine.
Council recently received a report about the proposed rezoning, which would allow the applicant to operate an arcade without restrictions on the number of machines, hours of operation, game content, liquor licensing and type of admission.
Amusement arcades became restricted in New Westminster in 1999, as a result of a regional trend initiated in response to complaints about noise, hours of operation and disrespectful or unlawful behaviour, said a staff report to the city’s land use and planning committee.
Since Capital City Classic Arcade opened in Sapperton last summer, it’s had no issues and has been well received by the local community, said Brad Eyers.
“Zero issues,” he said. “Zero complaints to the city, zero complaints to the police department, zero complaints to us.”
When the rezoning application was considered at the land use and planning committee, Eyers said committee members supported removal of all of the restrictions except for the type of games the arcade could have. Ultimately the committee agreed all games could be permitted, as long as they didn’t contain pornographic materials.
“We didn’t want them to have strictly different rules here in New Westminster than the new ones in Surrey or Burnaby or Vancouver. We wanted them to be able to compete,” said Coun. Chuck Puchmayr, one of three council members on the committee. “We did talk about not wanting any pornographic or sexual games.”
In addition to the rezoning, the applicant is also applying for a liquor primary licence so it can serve alcohol in the games area and a family-friendly endorsement so minors can remain at the arcade until 10 p.m.
Capital City Classic Arcade has always envisioned being an arcade, not a bar, Eyers said, but alcohol service has been the number 1 request from customers.
“We didn’t blink about that fact,” Puchmayr said. “We feel that it’s a modern time. Drinking isn’t what it used to be. People are more moderate with exposure to alcohol, especially with family places where people are bringing their kids. Plus, they are playing games.”
As part of the rezoning and liquor primary licence process, the applicants are hosting an open house on Thursday, Feb. 13 (today) from 4:30 to 6:30 p.m. at the Sapperton Pensioners Hall, 318 Keary St. Community members are invited to drop by and learn about the proposal, ask questions and provide comments on the application.
Carolyn Armanini, a development planner with the city, said a date hasn’t been finalized for the first and second reading or a public hearing, but it’s anticipated to take place this spring.
For Eyers, the sooner the application is considered the better.
“This has been four years now,” he said of his plan to open the arcade. “I have a friend that opened one up in Alberta in October or November. From concept to being open with alcohol was four months and a $400 business licence. I am going on four years, and just the alcohol alone and the bylaw changes is going to be $20,000 out of my pocket. It’s like they don’t want businesses opening up in the Lower Mainland. It’s mind-blowing to me. I just don’t understand it.”
While many Lower Mainland municipalities restricted or prohibited arcades back in the late 1990s, a staff report states amusement arcades have regained popularity given the resurgence of establishments offering retro-style classic arcade.
Capital City Classic Arcade has had tremendous support from locals and Metro Vancouver residents who’ve enjoying playing retro games and having birthday parties at the local business, but it’s also drawn visits from folks from the United States, other provinces and France.
To date, the most popular games have included 1942, Tetris, The Simpson’s, NFL Blitz and Pac-Man. The arcade currently features about 70 machines, some with multiple games.