Cosmopolitan and chic, Boulder boasts an alluring climate, boundless open spaces, breathtaking scenery, and an eclectic thoroughfare. Situated in the billowing shadows of the towering Flatirons of the expansive Rocky Mountain Range, the city of Boulder lures throngs of outdoor enthusiasts year round. But when the sun departs and the day becomes night, Downtown Boulder comes alive, and the pedestrian-only Pearl St. Mall, teeming with restaurants, bars, buskers and more, is the place to be.
In the Pearl Street cellar that once housed Round Midnight, a sultry jazz speakeasy turned vibrant nightclub, childhood friends and Boulder natives, Jesse Gossett and Mike Boselli, have established Boulder’s exclusive stand-alone arcade with a twist: Press Play, a lively and nostalgic tribute to the golden age of arcades, and a winning amalgam of gaming, dancing and booze.
Inside this subterranean haunt is the dissonance of music and chatter. A towering chalkboard adorns the walls that circumnavigate the bar to prominently display a list of the bar’s handcrafted cocktails, daily drink specials and available beer, cider and spirits. Surrounding it all is a throng of vintage game cabinets and pinball machines with their myriad displays emitting an ethereal glow upon the faces of patrons as they feverishly tap their way to victory, while quarter machines exchange metal for paper, coughing up tokens with the rattle of a Vegas slot machine.
Renovated and revitalized in 2012, Press Play now boasts a collection of more than 25 vintage arcade games, from “Pong” to “Tron,” as well as an impressive library of pinball machines, from classics such as “The Addams Family” and “Dirty Harry,” to recent releases such as “X-Men” and “The Amazing Spider-Man,” most costing only 25 cents. This pulsating neon lair of Boulder preserves the golden age of the arcade, at once, breathing life into the era of destination gaming when patrons hurriedly escorted quarters into the slots of their favorite coin-operated game. The theme is simple: coalesce the spirits of a bar with the games of an arcade, and press play.
Although a game is an activity done for pure enjoyment, Press Play enhances the bliss of its gaming patrons by hosting a slew of gatherings and competitions for those who vie for silver ball supremacy or sovereignty over the 16-bit game. Prizes include everything from bar tabs to a semester’s worth of textbooks, and, of course, the patron’s name etched onto the high scores board. Despite its expansive collection of games, Gossett and Boselli focus on more than merely developing their extensive game gallery, dedicating a comparable amount of time and energy into fulfilling their role as a lively nightclub, with exclusive DJ sets four nights a week and an impressive full bar. Instead of the cacophony of beeps and bells that clamored through the halls of their shadowy forebears, patrons of Press Play enjoy an extensive collection of the greatest hip-hop hits of the 1980’s and 90’s while dancing the night away.
For the moments in between, sidle up to the bar and enjoy a vast drink menu in the state that has been called the Napa Valley of beer. A veritable beer Mecca, Boulder, alone, boasts upwards of a dozen mouth-watering breweries, and Press Play follows suit, offering an impressive array of local brews and favorites from the world over for patrons to swig while knocking around the silver ball or defending the Earth from Space Invaders. Press Play also offers a full menu of arcade-themed pizza parlor classics. On my visit it was Ms. Pac-Man, Boulder Beer’s Nitro Mojo IPA, and the 10” Koopa Killer pie.
Gossett and Boselli set out to instill a sense of community into Downtown Boulder, and have accomplished just that by marrying the best of two complementary worlds. Whether you’re looking to play, dance or drink, Press Play has something to offer.
Press Play Bar, 1005 Pearl Street, Boulder, CO. Find more information at pressplaybar.com.