FARGO — The beer is flowing and the machines are glowing once again at Fargo's Pixeled Brewing Co., after North Dakota Gov. Doug Burgum permitted bars to reopen last week.
But as both a taproom and arcade, the business says it has taken extra steps beyond the ND Smart Restart guidelines to limit the spread of the coronavirus.
Pixeled has made drastic changes since its reopening. Bottles of hand sanitizer line the bar, seats are six feet apart and patrons are no longer allowed to stand at the bar for extended periods of time.
General manager and "Beer Wizard" Nick Hill said his establishment is unlike most bars and breweries since it has at least 60 arcade machines.
"People come in and remind themselves of where they played this game in their childhood," Hill said.
But not all his machines will glow in CRT monitor glory — at least not all at the same time.
Every other machine is turned off to socially distance the players. Pixeled has re-wired the machines to alternate which ones are turned on with a flick of a switch.
Staff are also constantly wiping down surfaces, buttons and joysticks after they are used. Guests are also able to wipe them down and have the option to wear plastic gloves.
The state only allows establishments to reach 50% of their capacity. Hill only allows about 25%, — about 50 patrons at once. He also installed UV lighting in the air circulation system to help clean the air.
"I don't think everyone's aware of the measures we're taking in addition to the Smart Restart program," Hill said. "We kind of took it a little bit further because we have a unique environment."
After opening in late 2018, Hill joined a small, but proud, group of people around the country reviving the arcade scene. In an age where consumers can easily get powerful video game consoles at home, arcade became a tough business to run. It became especially challenging when the COVID-19 pandemic forced many to temporarily close.
"We've applied for some SBA (Small Business Administration) help," Hill explained. "Unfortunately, they are at max capacity right now."
The pandemic hurt arcades like John Salter's Full Blast Arcade in Ohio, which closed for good back in March due to the pandemic.
Thanks to good planning, and help from loyal customers on GoFundMe, Hill made it to May 1, when North Dakota allowed bars to reopen again. He raised at least $2,600 in donations, in addition to sales from gift card and merchandise purchases.
"(It) brought a few tears to my eye," he said.
Hill says he's thrilled to be back in action, allowing guests to knock back a beverage and grind for a new high score.
"It was good to see our friends and family that we haven't seen in 45 days," Hill said.
Hill was recently allowed to serve beer from outside the brewery. He says this is fortunate timing since his in-house brewing is on hold due to new limitations brought on by COVID-19.