Downtown Barrie is about to get a blast back to the 1980’s when times were full of Thrillers, Game Overs and Brat Packs.
The Last Level Lounge, located at 72 Dunlop St. E., is set for a late-November opening and that is a relief to owner Aron Maslan and his wife, Jamie Lynn.
Maslan had an important meeting with the City of Barrie’s committee of adjustment last Wednesday night where he had to plead his case as to why his dream should be reality.
“It was a roller-coaster of emotions, that’s for sure,” said Maslan. “We knew we went in with a plan and felt like it was strong enough and detailed enough that we could convince the committee to see it our way.”
The issue that needed addressing with the committee was the arcade games that will line the establishment. A bylaw currently in place restricts the number of amusement devices to a maximum of two, essentially outlawing arcades from the downtown core.
While Maslan understands that the bylaw was likely written a time where arcades were seen as attracting rowdiness and mass loitering, he needed to make the committee understand that this is not an arcade.
“The bylaw essentially restricts the coin operation for profit for these machines and that is not the case here,” said Maslan. “The machines will not require coins, tokens or payment of any kind as they have actually been rewired to be played for free. The Last Level Lounge is a restaurant with the video game and '80s decor and the games or secondary, more like decoration.”
The Sir Robert Barrie Room at city hall was full of supporters last night who believed this was a fun idea that would attract many people from all over.
Current Ward 2 Coun. Rose Romita and Councillor-elect Keenan Aylwin were in attendance, as were building managers and fans of the genre. Many voiced their approval and asked the committee members to think outside the box, which they eventually did and made alterations to the provisions.
The establishment is to have no more than 22 amusement devices and no machines ever require money to play. Last Level Lounge will also have a small door fee that will help with the upkeep of all the nostalgic items as well as help with reducing loitering.
A relieved Maslan said he was overjoyed at the decision and told BarrieToday that he truly can’t wait to show everyone the nostalgia-based establishment where the walls are adorned with photos of Hulk Hogan, The Lost Boys, Prince, and In Living Colour.
“There was something about the 1980s and the early '90s that I was always obsessed about,” said Maslan. “I love the music, whether it's the pop music or synth music and the hair metal, I just love all of it.
"My friends always have fun with it, because I’ll always want the '80s movie on, and when video rental stores were still a thing, I would head right to those films," he added. "We’ve included pictures of somewhat new things like Stranger Things and Bruno Mars, because both are such a throwback to those days.”
It was 2010 and a trip to New Jersey that made Maslan realize he could fulfilll a dream he has had for a while which was to share his love of '80s and '90s video games and nostalgia with everyone else.
“We went to a place that was actually called Barcade and, ironically enough, the genre of these establishments as a whole is now called 'barcade', but they were the first so far as I know,” said Maslan. “I took my obsession and the idea of a barcade and combined them to create what I feel is more of a museum and place where you can come in and see a ton of conversation starters.
"The arcade-style games and statues of Terminator, Spider-Man and Star Wars characters will have people enjoying the decor as they eat and drink.”
The long tradition of 1950s-style diners has been a hit with nostalgia-seekers for years and Last Level Lounge hopes to be a trendsetter on the next wave of throwback establishments. The Pac-Man-themed bar will see a huge Pac-Man bottle holder behind the server as well as the food pick-up area having a scene from Star Wars with life-sized statues.
“The Palace Cafe will be the food pick-up area and will have Jabba the Hutt, Boba Fett and Han Solo in carbonite statues, for those who know their Star Wars,” said Maslan. “The food will be mainly snack items and finger food when we start, but over time may change. We just want everyone to have a good time and feel like they’re walking into a moment in history that was fun for so many.”