As entertainment centers across Austin reopen with bowling and more, the future of arcades remains murky

Pinstack opening during coronavirus
Pinstack at Tech Ridge in North Austin will reopen with alternating lanes available to customers. This precaution is one of several the business is making to help protect guests and employees from contracting the coronavirus, according to Pinstack. (Courtesy Pinstack)

Pinstack at Tech Ridge in North Austin will reopen with alternating lanes available to customers. This precaution is one of several the business is making to help protect guests and employees from contracting the coronavirus, according to Pinstack. (Courtesy Pinstack)

Note from the editor: High 5 Entertainment announced it would open its locations June 1. This article has been updated to reflect that new information.

Following Gov. Greg Abbott’s May 18 announcement that bowling alleys—alongside skating rinks and bingo halls—may open with social distancing measures in place, several of Austin’s entertainment centers have announced they will reopen with limited services.

Some businesses, such as Pinballz Arcade in Northwest Austin and Pinstack in North Austin, opened for dine-in services weeks ago.

Now, those venues will welcome customers back to enjoy in-store entertainment activities. Concurrent with the governor’s Phase 2 rules, several Austin-area entertainment centers will reopen in the coming days and weeks with bowling, axe throwing, karaoke and laser tag.

High 5 Entertainment, which has locations in Lakeway and in North Anderson off West Anderson Lane, is looking to reopen to customers on June 1, said Jennifer Emley, the vice president of sales and marketing for High 5.

The venue’s two locations will open with different offerings. According to the company’s website, High 5 will return with axe throwing, golfing simulators and bowling at both locations, which the North Austin High 5 store will additionally open with karaoke.

Emley said High 5 has brought on additional employees ahead of reopening who will focus on maintaining sanitation and social distancing measures throughout the venue.

High 5 created a bowling concierge position to assist customers at its bowling lanes. The lane concierge will direct each group of customers to their lane and ensure sanitation standards are kept at each lane.

“They can assist them if they need a different ball or shoe size. We’re trying to create less touch points for the guests,” Emley said.

Pinstack in North Austin, which opened one month before state-mandated closures forced the venue to close its doors, on May 8 reopened its restaurant and patio for dine-in services. The Tech Ridge entertainment venue normally offers a restaurant and bar, a climbing wall, bowling lanes and an arcade.

On May 28, Pinstack will reopen its bowling lanes. Pinstack CEO Mark Moore said the business will return with alternating lanes open to maintain social distancing guidelines for guests.

This weekend marks a milestone the business has been looking forward to since the coronavirus pandemic began, Moore said. The Pinstack CEO said the business put a reopening plan in place in March to reopen and retained staff so they could be ready to open as soon as allowed.

“We have had a lot of customers that have come in the doors and ask if bowling is open. ... We have pretty strong demand from the general public for going out and doing things with your family,” Moore said.

Arcade outlook

Spare Time Texas, an entertainment center in Pflugerville, announced May 19 it will open its doors to customers May 22—the first time it has welcomed the general public since March. In that time, the business has only offered curbside pickup and delivery services for its food and drinks.

Like Pinstack and High 5, Spare Time Texas will offer bowling, dining and bar services to customers.

However, the business will keep its arcade closed for the time being, according to a May 19 news release from Spare Time Texas.

Abbott did not explicitly include guidelines for arcades in his Phase 2 reopening announcement May 18. As a result, arcades across Texas must remain closed to customers.

In Northwest Austin, Pinballz will open its whiskey bar at its Lake Creek location, but the company cannot open its game floor with pinball machines and arcade games due to state mandates.

“We are ready to open 100% as soon as the governor deems it safe enough to do so,” Pinballz CEO Darren Spohn said in an email to Community Impact Newspaper.

In the meantime, Pinballz shifted its business operations to deal with the prolonged closures of its arcades caused by the coronavirus pandemic.

As previously reported by Community Impact Newspaper, the local chain is renting out selected arcade games to customers. Each machine rented from Pinballz is cleaned, sanitized and handled by workers wearing protective gloves. Pinballz is additionally still selling essential groceries and meal kits at all three of its locations.
By Iain Oldman
Iain Oldman joined Community Impact Newspaper in 2017 after spending two years in Pittsburgh, Pa., where he covered Pittsburgh City Council. His byline has appeared in PublicSource, WESA-FM and Scranton-Times Tribune. Iain worked as the reporter for Community Impact Newspaper's flagship Round Rock/Pflugerville/Hutto edition and is now working as the editor for the Northwest Austin edition.