Sneak Peek: Barcade’s Jersey City Location Set to Open Next Week

Photos: Eric Brown

After about a year of planning and construction, Barcade Jersey City is set to open to the public next week. Co-owner Paul Kermizian says the highly anticipated American craft beer bar/arcade has officially passed all inspections and will open around April 21, though he says the specific date won’t be known until the end of this week.

Barcade Jersey City will feature 24 drafts, one cask, and 33 vintage video games. The location marks the second in a growing Barcade franchise; the original opened in Brooklyn’s Williamsburg neighborhood in 2004, and another will soon open in Philadelphia. It begs the question — why in the world did the owners choose this town?

“Hoboken wasn’t our style,” says Kermizian, 36, a New Jersey native who has, among other things, directed the documentary American Beer. Occasionally shuttled around by developer Paul Silverman, who encouraged them and introduced them to different areas of town, Kermizian and co-owner Kevin Beard looked at the different types of bars Downtown. They checked out neighborhood bars of all stripes — from the polished Bar Majestic and Skinner’s Loft to rowdy drunkfests like Zeppelin Hall and dives like Lucky 7 Tavern.

He says they ultimately decided that “Jersey City is a good fit for us.”

Located a block from Grove Street PATH Station on Newark Avenue in the former Washington Mutual bank branch, Barcade Jersey City is on Downtown’s “restaurant row,” which in 2011 is an intersection between old Jersey City and new gentrification.

Walking east on Newark from the PATH, you pass glossy restaurants and abandoned storefronts, as well as a pit surrounded by a collapsed fence and protected only by frayed police tape swaying in the breeze. Several elderly men bring folding chairs to sit on the sidewalk outside Barcade’s still-closed doors daily, hanging out with the hot dog guy on the corner, where the outdoor seating will be.

“That hot dog guy’s been here for 25 years,” Kermizian explains. “That’s his crowd.”

I ask what will happen when the bar’s outdoor seating opens up. “He’ll just have to move a few feet over,” Kermizian says.

Unlike its Brooklyn location, Jersey City’s Barcade will serve food, with a planned seasonal menu – “stuff to eat and have a hand free for a beer or joystick” — featuring 10 to 12 sandwiches, cheeses, pickled vegetables, and delicacies like pickled hops.

Barcade will only serve American craft beers on a rotating basis, and only on draft to reduce waste and keep the beer fresh. Most pints will be $6, with some exceptions, like Dogfish Head World Wide Stout, which at 18.5 percent ABV will be $8. Beers that are hard to find, like Founder’s KBS, will be $7.

“We don’t have as high a profit margin for how busy we are compared to some bars, but we do that on purpose,” Kermizian says. “For the beer.”

With the owners still loyal to their hometown of Brooklyn, the bar will feature that borough’s resident breweries — Six Point and Brooklyn Brewery — on draft. But Barcade will also regularly feature Climax, New Jersey’s oldest craft brewery, and are excited about carrying New Jersey’s Flying Fish, which is currently not available in New York.

But not everyone is a beer snob, so I ask Kermizian how Barcade will deal with the $2-PBR-loving crowds that pack many of Downtown’s bars most nights.

“You’re never going to find $2 PBR Specials here. You’re paying more for quality, independently owned microbreweries’ beer,” he says. “If you’re paying $6 for a 8 percent Doppelbock, that’s like two or three PBR’s. For beginners, we’ll recommend something like Victory Prima Pils or Climax Helles. Everyone will leave happy.”

As for the video games, Kermizian says there will be 33 vintage arcade games from what he dubs the “golden age” – the late ‘70s and the ‘80s. There will be no fighting or shooting games, he says, since “there was a point in time when those games became popular and creativity was lost.” The rarest games on hand will be original Pong, and Star Wars Cockpit, but the hits will probably be classics like Donkey Kong, Tetris, Burger Time and Galaga. All will cost one quarter and yes, there’s a change machine in house — as well as a high score chalkboard for bragging rights.

“Get here quick if you want to get on the high score board,” co-owner Kevin Beard says. “We have serious gamers.”

Much like other much-anticipated new establishments, Barcade Jersey City took a little longer to open due to the city’s relentless inspections. But Kermizian says he and Beard had heard all about the setbacks faced by earlier comers, and came in ready for whatever was thrown at them.

“There were more steps than we were used to in New York,” he says. “But we heard there would be, and we were prepared.”

The bar is seen as a boon to the neighborhood, not just by local beer and video game lovers, but also by some local competition.

“It’ll be nice for people to bar hop,” Star Bar’s Wolf Sterling says. “People can come here for our 300 bottles, go there for drafts.”

Just down the block from Barcade is Skinner’s Loft, which has a rotating selection of American and imported craft beer. But manager Will Kelly isn’t concerned about Barcade taking business from him; instead, he feels that bringing in more establishments can only help others thrive in the notoriously tough Jersey City market.

“The more the merrier; the more business we can put in the street, the more we can make this a destination neighborhood,” he says. “I’d like to see it proliferate. It’s good to have a happening area — the concept of Hoboken, but done right.”

a freelance writer whose work has appeared in the Jersey City Independent. She's also a comedian who was born and raised in Jersey City, a Fiction MFA candidate at the New School and drinks way too much beer.