BURLINGTON — The Archives, an arcade bar in the former Burlington Free Press building, opened in downtown Burlington earlier this year.
“We had a soft opening for people who helped us open, and for industry people on the 29th (of March) and officially opened on the 30th,” said co-owner Matthew Walters. “It worked out perfectly — it was a beautiful night, we had the garage door open and we were packed from opening till closing.”
Walters said The Archive is intentionally a bar, not a restaurant.
“We do have food — we have a fantastic cheese plate — but we’re a bar first. That’s what we’ve always wanted to be and we just happen to have some really cool arcade games to go along with it.”
The business occupies just less than 3,000 square feet and includes about 40 games, including four pinball machines and a variety of vintage video games.
“We decided to keep it a little light on pinball and focus on video games, and so far that’s been successful for us,” Walters said.
The opening realized a dream for Walters and co-owners Nathan Beaman, Adam Lukens and Dan Chahine.
“Years ago, we all went to Barcade in Brooklyn and thought it was the greatest thing ever. That was the seed, and everything has blossomed from that,” Walters said.
Difficulties in the renovation process, including finding more asbestos than originally anticipated, made the opening a long wait for the owners.
“It’s just an old building, and we don’t blame anybody for that,” Walters said. “In fact, Joe Handy, who owns the building, has been sensational — he let us come in and start building even before we took over the lease, and has been very supportive throughout.”
The Archives offers 24 beers on tap, and a large and varied collection in cans and bottles. While Vermont craft beers are well represented, Walters said the bar also features a strong lineup of international beers, as well as brews from around the U.S. That includes the bar’s “American Classics” lineup, featuring Pabst, Narragansett, Genesee, Ballantine and others.
“I think we have a really good collection,” Walters said, “and we’re not sticking to IPAs, which are very popular in Vermont — we want to mix it up a bit. We’re using sours and saisons, some that we’ll keep, but most of which rotate. Matt Marrier, our general manager, pulls it all together.”
The beers selection is just one element, according to Walters.
“We have a very good cocktail selection, and all of our bartenders are experienced in making great cocktails,” he said. “We also offer all-natural wines.”
In the arcade, classic video games — mostly from the 1980s and 90s — such as Pac-Man and Ms. Pac-Man, have regulars competing for in-house high score records. NBA Jam, a four-player game, has been particularly popular.
“People get into it,” Walters said. “They gather round the game screaming. If you heard that in any other bar, the bouncers would kick you out, but here it’s a draw and fun to watch.” The Archives is offering NBA Jam tournaments and starting a league.
“The greatest thing about this place is the variety and range of our customers,” Walters said. “We offer a range of drinks for those who don’t want to spend a lot of money to those who want to try something new that might be expensive, in either a cocktail a beer or a wine. And we have ages from 21 to people in their sixties, and that makes everyone feel welcome. People enjoy coming here because they don’t have to be a particular person or part of a group. I’m pretty happy with the way things are going.”
The Archives is located at 191 College Street in Burlington. Hours are weekdays from 4 p.m. to 2 a.m., and Saturday and Sunday from noon to 2 a.m. The phone number is 448-4333 and the website is www.thearchivesbar.com.