Toronto’s Arcade Bars Still Having a Tough Go


A recent report in blogTO says that people have been slow to return to Toronto arcade bars in pre-pandemic numbers. “They’re still popular,” the author notes, “but people aren’t quite returning to the high-touch spaces in the same large numbers.”

Tilt and Zed 80, two arcade bars with the same owner, are among those that are feeling the strain. “It’s tough with the pandemic measures still in place, especially when the business model is having a large turnover and people coming out to play and touch games,” said Brad Pajuluoma, who was the assistant manager at Tilt before becoming the manager of Zed 80 in August 2020.

“In the meantime we try to keep everything clean, sanitized and make sure the games are in the best condition possible. Which is easier said than done for the most part, especially considering how it’s been tougher to get parts and supplies with the ongoing supply chain issues.”

The city’s FreePlay arcade bar doesn’t have much experience outside of the pandemic. They opened in January 2020. “Our numbers were fantastic those two months and we received a lot of love from the city and media,” said owner Jake Yakobi. “We’ve had to pivot multiple times as the government requirements kept changing.” Yakobi estimates about 35% fewer people coming in compared to those first two months.

Meanwhile, Rec Room – with locations around Canada – has data that shows the nation still hasn’t gotten back to 2019 norms. Their locations in Alberta were doing about 90% of usual, but in Toronto, the numbers still struggle.


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