Earlier this week, Governor Jared Polis released new guidance for certain kinds of businesses to reopen under the state's new "Protect Your Neighbors" phase of the coronavirus recovery plan (phases one and two were Stay at Home and Safer at Home). Among the businesses allowed to open are bars that don't serve food (at 25 percent capacity) and Gilpin County casinos, under a variance approved by the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment and the Gilpin County Board of Public Health.
But left out of the action were game arcades such as Jourdan Adler's three 1Up Arcade Bars on Colfax Avenue, in LoDo and in Greenwood Village. Despite having sent in his own variance request, Adler says he's still sitting at home and unable to open his establishments in any significant way.
"It's been rough," he states. "But I waited until the Gilpin County variance went through because I thought that would be a green light for us."
Adler notes that he could open his arcade bars under the new bar guidelines, but he would have to turn off or remove all of the arcade games. "To come into the 1Up and look at 150 games all turned off — it's like being in a graveyard," he adds, noting that drinks are not really the main draw even in the best of times. "We sell fifty-cent shots of Mad Dog, and our cocktails all have three ingredients — and one of those is ice."
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The arcade owner thinks that casinos that can currently only operate slot machines (and not table gaming) aren't much different than his arcades, and he's willing to follow the same rules, with every other machine turned off, guests distanced at least six feet apart and cleaning protocols in place between each user. He also points out that gyms have been allowed to open as long as they discourage the use of shared equipment or wipe down equipment between uses. "There are too many double standards," he says, "but it's time to give everyone a shot."
Adler's proposed variance includes several restrictions that he would follow as a business owner, including requiring employees and customers to wear face masks, limiting the capacity to 25 percent (or a maximum of fifty people), turning off or removing enough games to allow at least six feet between each game, monitoring and sanitizing each game between uses, and providing sanitizer, wipes and gloves for customers who wish to use them. The arcades would also enforce rules that would discourage mingling, competitions and game sharing between people who didn't come in as a family or group. He's hoping for a quick turnaround on the variance approval, because it will take him about two weeks to get up and running.
"July's kind of our breaking point," Adler continues. "I can squeeze out July's rents, but then I have to get open, and that might mean moving out games, renting a truck and finding storage space, which will take time and planning."
To help get his point out, Adler has changed up the marquee at his flagship 1Up Arcade Bar at 717 East Colfax Avenue; it now reads "Casino$ but no arcades. Let us turn our games back on." His point? That gambling is a big revenue generator for the state, but his small-time operation doesn't have much pull.