Arcadia National Bar has been closed since March 17, 2020. As of this writing, that's 549 days of no arcade games, no pinball, no board games, no socializing with friends and no having a beer at your favorite hangout. Now, when this beloved Portland business is just about to get ready to open its doors again, the City of Portland has slapped them hard with a liquor license costing $18,000. Yeah, you read that right. 18K to serve alcohol and the reasoning behind it is absolutely ridiculous.

In the time since Arcadia has been closed, owner Dave Aceto has worked hard to keep his business afloat. He's held a 24-hour live-streamed marathon playing pinball for donations to support his out-of-work staff.

He's taken on an awesome new business partner.

And moved to a larger location at the former Port City Music Hall with the help of GoFundMe donations from Arcadia regulars and fans.

Townsquare Media
Townsquare Media

Now, after all this, the City of Portland has erected a huge barrier in front of Arcdia's progress in the form of an astonishing $18,000 liquor license which is $15,000 more than at the old Preble Street location. Why is it so much? It's all about the arcade.

The City of Portland has tied liquor license costs to the number of amusement games a business has. We're talking arcade games, pinball machines, Skee-Ball, bubble hockey and anything you can drop some quarters into and play. A $153 charge is applied to every single one of these games, many of which are probably older than you. You can't get the liquor license without paying the fees on all those games. Of the $18K license fee, $15k is attached to the games alone and that is absolutely absurd. The worst part is, the city doesn't even understand why it's a thing.

I've gotten a sneak peek at the new Arcadia as they privately host weekly meets of The New England Pinball League, which they have done since they originally opened in 2014, only recently resuming this month after a haitus during the pandemic. What they are doing to transform the space is absolutely epic.

Townsquare Media - Jeff Parsons
Townsquare Media - Jeff Parsons

This fee that Portland is dropping like a bomb on Arcadia sounds like a greedy money grab by the city to me, and at a time when the last thing they should want to do is force another beloved downtown business to close forever. Portland needs Arcadia and the city needs to change the rules to work with local businesses so people want to come to Portland.

My assumption is this is an old, archaic fee on the books since the 50s when pinball machines and amusement games were considered a form of gambling that doesn't make sense in the 21st century. Should there be a fee for the games? Sure. But make it a flat or capped fee, not something that isn't economically feasible for a locally owned, small business that makes 25 to 50 cents every time a game is played and almost all of that profit goes back into repairing and maintaining the games that date back to the 60s.

Are you listening Portland City Council? Do the right thing and make sure we keep Arcadia National Bar as one of the many locally-owned businesses that make Portland what it is today.

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