Pinball Toronto

5 questions with the owners of the new Pinball Cafe

A 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

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