Travel back to the ’80s with The Burl Arcade

Old television sets cover a wall at the Burl Arcade in Lexington, Kentucky. Photo by Kayleigh Conrad | Staff

Kayleigh Conrad

One quarter per play starts up vintage video arcade games such as NBA Jam, Star Wars Pinball and Vindicators in The Burl’s newest project, The Burl Arcade.

Located just off Manchester Street in the heart of the Distillery District, The Burl Arcade makes it feel like time travel might be possible. Enter the building that reads “Arcade” in neon red marquee lights and be greeted by an adult playground with more than 30 different old school video games.

The Burl Arcade, which opened in May 2018, serves cocktails on draft and allows customers to party like it’s 1980 with an enormous selection of rare and old school electronic games. According to Cannon Armstrong, part owner in the venue along with Will Harvey and Jomo Thompson, the process of finding unique games such as PacMan, Defender and Donkey Kong included long hours on Craigslist, road trips to St. Louis, Cincinnati and Knoxville and searching through private “man caves” in the hopes of finding old school video games that fit within The Burl Arcade concept of a trip back to a simpler time.

Despite the arcade space being vacant a while after the opening of The Burl, the idea had been in the works for a while.

“I saw the trend of these kind of bars open in other places and I liked the idea of a place to hang out that reminds me of my childhood. Once we got The Burl open and we had this space, it seemed like a cool idea that didn’t exist in the state of Kentucky,” Armstrong said.

If old school games weren’t enough, The Burl Arcade also features console games on its one-of-a-kind large TV wall with more than 30 bulky old school television sets. A main focal point of the space, this TV set wall doubles as an art piece and a practical way to play more current games such as Guitar Hero and Nintendo 64. While the console games are on, customers can find their favorite movies playing on other monitors.

Armstrong explained that inspiration for the wall came from “this MTV scene from my childhood that used to play before shows. The TV wall seemed like the perfect way to be practical and still be retro and artsy.”

Even on a weeknight, many repeat customers can be found playing their favorite nostalgic games. Katie Stefanski, a recent customer to The Burl Arcade, made it apparent that she is a big fan of the arcade.

“I love that it takes me back to my childhood. I like the atmosphere and the fact you can have a drink and hang out with friends while still playing arcade games from your childhood,” Stefanski said.

She admitted that Pinball is her favorite out of all the games to play. Stefanski said the best part about the arcade is that “at night, you can go have fun and feel like a kid again and forget about all your adult responsibilities.”

The Burl Arcade is located at 369 Thompson Rd. It is open seven days a week, Monday-Thursday 4 p.m. to midnight, Friday 4 p.m. to 2:30 a.m., Saturday noon to 2:30 a.m. and Sunday from noon to midnight.