16-Bit Bar + Arcade Offers Old-School Fun

Imagine getting to play all of your favorite old-school arcade games again as an adult – with a drink in hand. Columbus residents won’t have to wait much longer for this dream to become a reality. The highly anticipated 16-Bit Bar+Arcade will open on South Fourth Street in downtown within the next few weeks.

Owner Troy Allen brought the bar plus arcade concept to Columbus after seeing successful ventures with similar concepts in Chicago and New York. Intrigued by the idea, Allen’s research showed this could be a viable business. Then, about a year ago, he committed to the concept and started purchasing games. After acquiring around 25, it was time to start a business. Not a bar but a businesses. Allen says he wanted to create a place where he would want to go and hang out.

When Allen first moved to Columbus from Chicago, he lived downtown before moving to Dublin. He’s seen the rise, fall and revival of downtown Columbus and wanted to make 16-Bit a part of it.

“It was tough to see downtown start to fail, but now it’s coming back,” he says. “We wanted to be a part of that. 16-Bit was a way to connect with downtown.”

This isn’t Allen’s first creative contribution to downtown. He is also founder of brand strategy and marketing firm, ELEVATEthinking. Allen says he was fortunate to have Elevate because he already had a team already in place to help bring the business to market. Elevate specializes in tasks like like branding and creating processes and procedures for other companies, but they used their know-how to create something for themselves. And what they created is a bar that is focused on experience.

Allen wants patrons to embrace their inner 10-year-old.

“I want a-ha moments or oh I remember that game,” he says.

Every detail is craftily designed to take gamers back to that time and place. The bar will crank out 80s and 90s tunes and also have old-school movie night. Even the cocktails are thematically named after popular 80s and 90s stars. Non-gamers can enjoy 16-Bit as well. The bar space up front provides a more relaxing atmosphere, while games are housed toward the back. But the number one rule is, if you drink, you play for free.

With a selection of 45 games, patrons are sure to find their favorite hidden gems. An additional 25 machines will be rotated in the lineup.

Allen also describes how a place like 16-Bit appeals to such a wide demographic. There are the people who grew up on the games, and he also sees a younger demographic of techies in Columbus that really appreciate the old technology and want to engage with it.


Allen spoke to the process of how 16-Bit has evolved from inception to its near opening.

“Everybody had different thoughts of what it would be,” he says, but describes it as a bar first; a bar with arcade games. He says he wasn’t surprised by the buzz and that people were excited by the idea, but was taken aback by the feedback. Allen has valued the feedback, using it to continually improve on the concept and says the bar will always be evolving. He wants to use feedback to create a sense of community.

With the final inspections underway, the Columbus community will soon be playing rounds of Pacman with a movie-star cocktail in hand.

For more information, visit 16-bitbar.com.