Insert Coins is opening it’s second location in Minneapolis, MN. I had a chance to check it out a couple days early and wanted to share my thoughts with everyone.
The downtown area of Minneapolis is a lot different from other downtowns in metropolitan areas I’ve been to. From 9 to 5, our downtown is a hustle, with myriads of people getting to and fro engaging in commerce, business, etc. But once 5pm comes around you’d think this was a ghost town. Suits and ties get replaced with popped collars and too short short-skirts lining up outside the various night clubs in the Warehouse district, or the lines of people looking to get into a concert at any one of the music venues located downtown. There’s also a good number of empty buildings that closed up shop for any number of reasons – the economy, liquor license issues, problems with clientele – These all contribute to a mass of empty buildings which resemble the shell of an establishment that previously housed people and libations.
When I heard the announcement that Insert Coins, a nightclub centered around video games, (There’s only one other location open in the US, in Las Vegas.) was coming to Minneapolis, I had mixed reactions. Quite frankly, since the closure of Gameworks, Minneapolis hasn’t had a solid establishment in the cities where games and booze meet (unless you’re counting the various “arcade chains” in the suburbs). However, it’s also a nightclub, and regardless of your feelings on them, that word comes with its own bag of pre-conceived notions.
In the interest of full disclosure, I am not a nightclub person whatsoever. The last time I remember stepping into a nightclub was 2008, when I was dragged in by a couple of my single guy friends. I got to witness two guys getting so drunk they felt it was a good idea to strip naked and run around. While the hilarity of watching the bouncers chase these guys like greased pigs was pretty high, it’s something I can do without. Nightclubs just generally aren’t my scene.
I was given the opportunity to attend the soft opening of Insert Coins on the night of October 24th, 2012. Having been given a tour by their awesome management a couple weeks prior, I was very anxious and excited to see the finished product. I got a glimpse of the various arcade cabinets they had, with the promise of more to come. I also got to see the bar areas and various console lounges for guests. Waiting in that line to get in just made me more excited for what was inside. Having watched a number of episodes of the Spike TV show “Bar Rescue” thanks to my wife, I came into this soft opening partially knowing what to expect and also having a bit more of a critical eye, even though I’m an amateur when it comes to the nightclub scene.
Upon entry into the club (which ended up being later than we expected), we found out the entire downstairs area was closed as far as bar service, though the games were available to play. I was wide eyed with so many classic arcade games from my childhood on the first floor alone; Mortal Kombat 2, 4 player X-Men, Street Fighter 2 and countless others were available. The walls were adorned with amazing artwork from local artists featuring art inspired by Super Mario Bros and Portal. There was a even a DJ there bumping the music throughout the entire club.
The upstairs however, was where all the action was happening. It’s also where things became a little off. Since the soft opening is also a trial for the staff, it seemed everyone hired by the place was there. However, because the downstairs was closed, every staff member was upstairs. Getting anywhere became a chore as you were practically falling over the multitude of staff members. At one point, I tried to get to the change machine to play some of the arcade games upstairs, only to find 3 security people blocking its path, who only moved after I asked them repeatedly if I could get to the machine. Other staff members did not seem so receptive to the people around them. They came across as terribly uninviting and more interested in talking with each other than checking on any of the guests. Rather than encourage and entice people to check out the various lounge areas, where consoles are connected to TVs for play, they poked around with the games and scooted around as though they did not want to be there. Never once did a server approach us asking if we wanted a drink or to see a menu. Instead we went to the bar ourselves.
The bar was another interesting experience. There are no tap beers whatsoever at the bar, instead everything is served in cans or bottles. The selection also leaves something to be desired. I was greeted with a selection of standards like Bud, Newcastle and Heineken, but was unable to find anything of any variety. I’m not sure about the atmosphere in Las Vegas, but Minneapolis loves its microbrew beers, and there’s really a missed opportunity to not even feature Surly or Fulton, two local breweries. I overheard another guest at the bar complaining about this very thing. Watching the bartender make my mixed drink did not instill me with confidence. My first drink was a simple Whiskey and Ginger Ale. Much to my surprise, they did not have Ginger Ale. Instead they mixed what I believe was Sprite with Club Soda. He also managed to squirt Cranberry juice into the first drink, before making me a second one. At least with the specialty drink I ordered later, I could understand the fumbling as it was made, since it was a very complicated specialty drink. I will sing praises for their Bomb Pop.
Still, Insert Coins is full of a variety of different games. Upstairs, my wife and I got a chance to play some Pinball, Tron and House of the Dead (which is one of our favorite games as a couple). Classic relics of arcade machines adorn almost every wall. I still felt a little sad that no newer machines existed beyond a 4 player Pac-Man downstairs. It’s a little disappointing that the arcade area of a movie theater can contain newer games than a “video game nightclub”. Still, retro enthusiasts will love the selection of arcade machines.
The TVs feature an array of different games as well. Though, I couldn’t help but feel puzzled about some of the choices. I’m not sure how many people are going to want to sit at a bar, order a beer or cocktail, and play Max Payne 3 or Borderlands 2 (both games I saw on different TVs). I can understand Madden 13 or Call of Duty, none of which require any long time investment, but anything that entices a long play time just seems off. If anything, that might make me more involved in the game, spending less money and time on the drinks and such.
I had high hopes for Insert Coins, and continue to hope for its success. However, I feel as though the success they may have in Las Vegas might not be the exact same formula they can use here in Minneapolis. Unless some major changes go through, this could quickly become just another night club, which happens to have some pretty amazing arcade machines. The staff did not do anything to make patrons feel comfortable there, and I witnessed more than one person standing awkwardly wondering what to do. My wife and I ended up leaving after an hour for this very reason; we just didn’t feel very welcome there. Perhaps visiting during a busier time when the staff has had time to work out the kinks, as well as when the place is in full swing will net a more pleasant experience. To give them a break, they are brand new, and any new place usually has some kinks to work out. One of my favorite bars in the neighborhood I live in was downright abysmal when it first opened up. My hope is that management sees some of these issues and is willing to rectify them, making for an awesome experience to be enjoyed by a wide variety of people. I’m excited for something unique to exist in our amazing city, and I still have hopes that Insert Coins will eventually fit the bill.