When I was up in Seattle for a long weekend recently, I inadvertently squandered far too many hours in a flawlessly shitty dive by the name of Shorty's. For those of you that are unfamiliar, Shorty's has seemed to amass a Zeitgeist-like popularity up there, and for good reason: its walls are lined with arcade games and amusement park oddities, and they have an entire back room dedicated to pinball (15 machines in all). Plus, drinks are priced the way drinks should be priced (cheap) and they serve above gas station-quality hot dogs. You know, the stuff good bars are made of.
So when I say I “squandered” too many hours there, that's not to say that Shorty's wasn't worth the time, because it most certainly was and is. But it was my first time ever in Seattle and I had planned on seeing as much as I could, not blowing the better part of a Friday night feeding quarters to decades-old machines in the mixed company of yuppies and drug addicts. So when I went to cash my second ten dollar bill in for quarters, I couldn't help but feel my attraction to this place was less about what Shorty's does well, but more about what San Francisco doesn't do at all.
For all the things we get right, our bars have become awfully dull and monotonous. The industry spends so much time differentiating between cocktail menus and light fixtures that bar owners seemed to forget how to make their places fun. Besides ordering sillypants drinks like a “gently bound”, we're lucky if a bar has anything besides a single pool table/pinball machine, (internet) jukebox, and an occasionally functional ATM. Darts? Hardly. Events? Rarely. Mini-golf course? Forget it.
So as that Friday night in Shorty's grew old and my index fingers tired, I got the most serendipitously perfect text from my friend Erika: the above photo with the message, “Gestalt debuted an arsenal of pinball machines. 5 total.”
Now, obviously, Gestalt isn't Shorty's. At least not yet. But, they sell cheap beer and sausages, which is basically an upscale take on the hot dog, and are making a legitimate attempt to open a mini-arcade in a bar. Plus, all their equipment actually works, which is more rare than you'd think in this town.
As the bartender told me on my third visit in two weeks, “We're hoping Gestalt becomes a place people come to play games.” Then he got someone to cover the bar so he could indulge in a round on Funhouse.
So far, the response to the shift has been so strong that they're already looking for more games to fill the place with. And let's hope it keeps that way, if only so the next time I'm in Seattle I can stand in line for 2 hours at the first ever Starbucks or something.