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It was a long time in the brewing, but Cidercade has grown from an at-home hard cider making hobby to three successful arcade bar locations in Texas. The latest in Houston opened Jan. 29 and the previous in Austin opened in August 2020, and the growing isn’t done yet.
Owners Joel and Laura Malone unofficially founded Bishop Cider in 2012. After a couple years of perfecting their products, they branded it and brought it to market in May 2014 with a tasting room in Dallas’s Bishop Arts District.
“It struck a chord with consumers and quickly began to grow and pick up steam,” said Hunter Eichberger, Cidercade’s director of marketing and Laura Malone’s brother.
In 2015, they secured a new 17,000-sq.-ft. production facility where they expanded the operation. When things began to stagnate, the Malones went back to a previous idea they had – an arcade. Another family member is a small-time operator and was able to get a few games into their tasting room. Now there are about 150 games in the venue.
Their bars at each location serve exclusively Bishop Cider drinks. It started with the hard cider, but now they have alcoholic kombucha, seltzers and even wine. All of it comes out of the same production facility in Dallas and is distributed across Texas in hundreds of grocery stores and other retailers. They’re also in Oklahoma, New York, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Arkansas and Connecticut.
The success of their first Cidercade led to the second location in Austin and quickly to the third in Houston. Like in Dallas, their Austin location has about 150 games. Unlike that location, Austin’s has a kitchen where they make artisan thin-crust pizzas. It’s in a historic building right on Town Lake and there’s a patio on the water with a view of downtown Austin.
In Houston, they went big with an 18,000-sq.-ft. ground-up build in the up-and-coming EaDo neighborhood. They have more than 275 games in the huge space, plus 48 taps of 24 different ciders, kombuchas, seltzers and wines. There are also food trucks serving the venue (similar to what they have in Dallas).
Throughout their locations, Cidercade charges a $10 admission and offers free play on games, which Eichberger said is “one of our top value propositions and brand differentiators.”
“We kind of just emulate the formula of success we found in Dallas,” he added.
They may have started with cider, but the arcade is certainly no afterthought. They have classics like the iconic Asteroids, Joust, NBA Jam and Super Cobra; pinballs ranging from Aerosmith and Iron Maiden to Monster Bash and The Munsters; and the indie game Killer Queen at all locations. (A full list of their current game lineups is available on each of their websites.)
“We want to offer a variety of games,” Eichberger explained. That means they cater to not only people spending a night at the bar with friends, but also gamers and enthusiasts. “We have a lot of cabinets that are the classics folks grew up on.”
Cidercade is always on the lookout for new and classic games, which they still rent through the family member who placed a few games in their first location. At least one game technician works at each location to keep the arcades up and running at 100%.
“We’re constantly trying to keep the offering fresh,” Eichberger said, noting that they rotate games weekly. Recently, that’s included some new limited-edition games from Stern to go into a designated pinball section.
Especially at the Houston location, they’re excited about the full return of professional sports. That venue is just a couple blocks from Minute Maid Park, home of MLB’s Houston Astros. After the games, patrons can enjoy Baseball Stars Professional, Bottom of the Ninth or maybe World Series ’99.
As a family-operated business, Cidercade is definitely family friendly, but are only admit all ages until 8 p.m. At that time, it’s 21 and over.
Patrons are welcome to pay their $10 admission and only play games, but most take advantage of the cider. “At least 60% of the people who come in that are drinking age are going to have at least one cider while they play,” Eichberger said. When it comes to non-alcoholic drinks, they also take the one-time-fee route. It’s $4 for unlimited access to the soda machine.
While Covid-19 restrictions haven’t missed Texas entirely, they were spared from the harshest. Still, “that virus thing … we take it seriously,” they note on their website.
They have ULV foggers similar to what the airlines use that they run after hours. They distance games where necessary, sanitize constantly and are entirely cashless establishments. Despite the recent mask mandate removal in the state, they’re going to keep requiring them.
Overall, as the Covid cloud begins to lift and there’s a vaccine and light at the end of the tunnel, Cidercade is excited to continue reuniting with people and creating great memories. They’re actively looking at where they can do that next – in Texas and elsewhere.