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5 questions with the owners of the new Pinball Cafe

Posted by Staff / December 6, 2011

Pinball TorontoA couple of days ago we mentioned that Parkdale will soon be home to Toronto's first pinball-themed cafe. At the time we noted that details on this new venture were sparse but today we tracked down the owners and asked them to fill us in on some of the details. Here's what we learned in five questions with the owners of the new Pinball Cafe.

Who are you guys?

We are Jason and Rachel Hazzard. Husband and wife team with a combined 40 years in the hospitality industry. My resume includes Fairmont Hotels and Resorts as well as Oliver & Bonacini here in Toronto. I am currently the owner/operator at Rent-A-Buddy Moving, a residential moving company in the city. Rachel is working as a server/bartender/manager at Mark McEwan's North 44. My background in pinball comes the same way as most people my age - long hours in smoky video arcades and pool halls back in the 80's.

Why have you decided to open a pinball-themed cafe?

Pinball has been without a home in Toronto for too long. There are places with one or two machines tucked in a corner - bars, pool halls, even laundromats - but the city was ready for a pinball hub. I also wanted to get these beautiful machines out of the collectors' basements and back into the world where they belong.

Many great tables have gone underground - into private collections or cottage game rooms. Pinball was built and developed for public spaces and I want to give people the chance to play great vintage games either for the first time or that they remember from their youth.

We opted for a cafe rather than a bar because pinball is for all ages, young people should be able to play with their parents. Combined with great coffee, classic retro candy, fresh baked cookies, cakes and squares served up in a bright and lively cafe atmosphere we are not your fathers pinball arcade.

The history of pinball is often associated with "the rebel" played in sleazy beer joints and smoky arcades, heck, the game was illegal in most American big cities until the mid Seventies! These machines are interactive works of art for the eyes and the ears and we want to give them a space where everyone can come and play without being intimidated by their surroundings.

What can you tell us about what the cafe will be like?

Some decisions are still being made, but I can tell you that opening hours are planned for 11 am - midnight seven days a week. We will have 8-10 pinballs in operation at all times and these will rotate and change regularly. Machines will range from the 1960's electromechanical classics, through the start of the solid state electronics games in the seventies and one or two "heavy hitters" from the modern era. Right now we are not quite ready to publish a full opening day game list. We have to keep some secrets so you will need to come out and see in February.

Coffee supplier is also in the taste test, decision phase. Classic retro candy from the states is already in stock and discussions are being held with our neighbours at Yummy Stuff to provide a unique menu of fresh baked treats daily. We will also feature a premium quality milkshake bar and aim to be Toronto's Best Milkshake. 40oz milkshake for two anyone?

Why did you choose the location at 1662 Queen West?

Our spot on Queen West was the only real choice. This area, much like the game of pinball, has a bit of a checkered past but is quickly developing as Roncesvalles Village moves south and the old image of a dirty, gritty Parkdale is just no longer the case. Queen Street is where the cool kids hang out and pinball is very cool again.

What makes a good pinball game?

Now that's a loaded question. There are a lot of passionate opinions out there about pinball and what makes a great game. For me it is about the whole experience - artwork, sound, good solid gameplay with good targets and goals to achieve. I love the classic tables - with chiming bells and a gentler pace as much as I love the sensory overload of the new fast paced, over the top machines. Looking on the side of a 1970's machine and seeing a very faint scratch mark where a teenager carved his personal high score in the side of the box and added the date 1981? That's as good for me as any number of multi-balls and flashing lights.

Photo by Bob Jagendorf on Flickr

Discussion

21 Comments

mike in parkdale / December 6, 2011 at 03:28 pm
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this makes me happy. Pinball makes me happy. Parkdale makes me happy.

Side story - I was in Las Veags at the Riviera hotel, and found a giant hall of vintage pinball games. I guess they are famouse for their collection of the old time games. Some even still had ashtrays bolted to the sides. Classic!
K-Borg / December 6, 2011 at 03:58 pm
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Please please pleeeeeeeease get a liquor license!
The Other Neil / December 6, 2011 at 04:31 pm
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"TILT"
"TILT!!!"
"TILT!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!"
Pete Forde / December 6, 2011 at 04:33 pm
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If you get a liquor license and convert to a bar at 9pm or something, you can make everyone happy.

However, I strongly suspect that most of your clientele will be of drinking age and that your dream vs. the reality of testing a pinball cafe business hypothesis is that for people who didn't grow up with pinball, it will be a very hard sell.

The good news is that if you get a liquor license and have a great non-Strongbow cider on tap (I recommend Woodchuck over other options) then I pledge to wear out my liver in your company.
Glenn H / December 6, 2011 at 04:40 pm
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OMG.. this makes me even more excited to see this cage go into place. Love the idea. I am curious what they will do for wait times. I can put in $2.00 for 3 games and be at the same machine for 1 hour (by then my wrists are killing me anyways) but if you get 4 people that love pinball (& can play it well) and play against each other.. it could be a long wait time... & if one of them MATCH, then they play another game.
"Mike in Parkdale" - love your comment.. I always tell people that I hate to gamble & would rather spend $10-20 on pinball games for 3-4 hours than than play the slots..that's is way more exciting to me.
BlogTO - Jason mentions that there are pinball games located in sparse areas in Toronto... did anyone ever collect all these places and publish them in one place? I would LOVE to see that list since I only know of 2-3 machines myself.. & 2 of them have been out of order for the past month :(
Glenn H / December 6, 2011 at 04:43 pm
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Ooops.. typo "see this cage go into place" suppose to be "see this cafe go into place" ... sorry for my errors.. there's a few more.
Peter / December 6, 2011 at 05:01 pm
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Does the pinball games in the tech centres at the movie plexs count?

or what about playidum? I think they have a few.
Hall Way / December 6, 2011 at 05:04 pm
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I know you want to have an all ages vibe but at the very least you could serve drinks after 9pm or something like that. It would be a huge mistake not to.

Otherwise, I am very hyped for this since I'm a pinball fanatic!
Pinball Stu / December 6, 2011 at 05:37 pm
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I'll be interested to see how much they charge per play... Fingers crossed for the good old days of 25 cents, though anticipating the more modern $1/play. Sigh.
Jason / December 6, 2011 at 05:43 pm
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Get on the mailing list to get all the updates and get in the draw to win your very own pinball machine at http://www.thepinballcafe.com. We will announce tonight on the Facebook page what table is up for grabs.
Jason replying to a comment from Pinball Stu / December 6, 2011 at 05:48 pm
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25 cents per play. I like the good ole days, too.
Lauren / December 6, 2011 at 05:55 pm
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Can't wait Jason and Rachel! You guys are amazing and this will be so much fun. Tried to rent arcades for a bday party- cost was ridiculous. Cant wait to have some parties here. Crossing my fingers for donkey kong classic.
. / December 6, 2011 at 08:51 pm
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OMG dumb hipsters and their hipster cafes, go move to oregon.
Robert / December 6, 2011 at 09:57 pm
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2 words for pinball

Steve Ritchie
High Speed
Black Knight
Terminator 2
Eightball / December 6, 2011 at 10:24 pm
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I was in vegas a few months ago and spent a few hrs at the pinball museum on Flamingo. Pure heaven, all 25c mostly 5 ball games. I hope this place is successful, good luck.
Chris replying to a comment from Glenn H / December 7, 2011 at 12:43 am
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@Glenn H: there are (at least) 2 pubs on Danforth that have a functioning pinball machine, Court Jester and Brass Taps!
Corey - Freelance Writer / December 7, 2011 at 07:25 am
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@Jason - I agree with some of the above comments about getting licenced - with only 10 pinball machines at any given time, and having to wait hours for players like @Glenn H to rack up high scores, you are going to have some bored customers. After 9pm send the kids home, bring the booze out, and if you have the space for it, live music.
Tyler / December 8, 2011 at 08:33 am
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Cant wait. Would love for it to be licensed in the later hours to filter out the kids, and enjoy a beer while racking up some scores.
Holly / December 20, 2011 at 02:48 am
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You should really get that liquor license, it's a really good idea.
Holly replying to a comment from Glenn H / December 20, 2011 at 02:57 am
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Ted's Collision on college has one, I think it's a spiderman machine.
The Port on Dundas has a World Cup Soccer machine
The Unloveable near Dufferin on Dundas has a Star wars pinball machine (also a 60 in one cocktail table including pacman)
Motel used to have one, not sure if it still does

Anyway, there is a site with a list
http://eug.0x47.com/Pinball/toronto.html
Jason / December 20, 2011 at 11:24 pm
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Just a quick note, for the record... we will have pinball. Really cool vintage pinball. You know those machines that chime and click and clackety clack as the score wheels reset? We have those. We have newer machines too that light up and play music and talk to you. They will cost 25 cents a game!

We will have great coffee, classic sodas in glass bottles with bendy straws and retro flavours. We will have fresh baked cookies and cakes and yummy yummy squares. We will have a super fun jukebox with vinyl in it and flashing lights that change colours and pulse with the rhythm!

We will have ice cream and milk shakes and comic books and retro candies that you haven't seen in years. Most likely that some of you have never seen! We will have Wi-Fi and comfortable seating and kick ass vintage pinball backglasses hanging on the walls. We will most likely even have a furry wall, and possibly a disco ball! We will have impromptu tournaments and prizes and special events.

We will not have a liquor license. It's not going to happen. Sorry folks, but serving hooch is just not gonna be our bag. Trust me. I like a drink as much as the next guy (anyone who knows me would say probably more than the average "next guy") but Parkdale has lots of bars and taverns. It's a market we are not attempting to compete in.

Would we be original if we were The Pinball Tavern? Or just another Toronto bar with some machines in it?

Come in to The Pinball Cafe in the spring. Have a game or 3. Have a cappuccino and maybe a lemon tart. Come and have a chat with me about all things pinball! I'll buy you an espresso. Feel free to hit The Cadillac or The Rhino or The Drake for your fill of fire water later on. If I see you there I might even buy you a beer.

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