If you’re in the Whitby, Ontario area and you’re looking for a blast from the past with a modern touch, you’ll need to check out 8-Bit Beans.
8-Bit Beans is a café, arcade and bar that sets itself apart from the competition in the area with a focus on nostalgia for classic video games and arcade cabinets. As soon as you walk into the establishment, you feel as if you’ve been transported back to a time where pinball machines reigned supreme.
The bar and arcade combo can be seen in many cities, but they often feel disconnected, as if someone taped together two concepts that worked and thought that would be enough. What makes 8-Bit Beans so special is that it’s not just an arcade or just a bar or just a café; all three of those elements tie together to create an experience.
It’s in the layout, where the arcade cabinets take up a portion of the center space, while pinball machines (both new and old) line the back walls. There are booths for people to take a break from the action, fitted with retro consoles and decorated with clippings from old gaming magazines.
The menu ties their items back to the theme. Need an early morning boost? Try a Funky Kong banana cream mocha. Want something to snack on? Sonic’s Chili Dog should do the trick. And what better way to wind down after work than a specialty drink, such as the K-Rool Krunch?
There’s even a small room in the back dubbed “Mom’s Basement” which is perfectly outfitted to replicate that basement where many a young gamer spent hours with friends. It’s complete with a TV set, old consoles and some retro chairs and couches.
Chris Lama, a co-owner of 8-Bit Beans, explained how their approach was about the experience; one that’s both nostalgic and surprisingly fresh, and one that can appeal to any demographic.
“We wanted to be a place that parents could bring their kids to during the day, and also where adults of all ages could spend their evening” Lama told ggn00b in an interview, while simultaneously destroying this interviewer in a game of Konami’s Track & Field. “And we want people to be engaged in the games, in the action.”
The proof is in the pudding, as the days are filled with young kids and their parents, coffee and food orders flying, while the nights are filled with adults as the alcohol comes out. The one thing that remains constant throughout the day is the tokens going into the machines.
Additionally, 8-Bit Beans sells ground coffee of varying flavors, all cleverly packaged in NES-style bags. The branding has proved effective, as these bags of coffee tend to sell out quickly.
“It’s all about the experience.” Lama says.
While Whitby is currently capped at how many people can enter any particular shop, 8-Bit Beans continues to make the most of it; they’ve recently introduced private bookings, allowing people to book the space for parties, stags and so on.
Additionally, they have clear rules and restrictions laid out, as well as sanitizing kits near the pinball machines and arcade cabinets to ensure guests that they will be protected as much as possible.
However, like many other small businesses in Ontario, they are at the mercy of health regulations and potential lockdowns, which have fluctuated throughout the pandemic. 8-Bit Beans has managed to stay afloat, making the most of their unique business model and branding and maximizing the times they’ve been open. But even the smartest businesses will get caught if more restrictions are brought back.
“It really sucks. But we just can’t afford another lockdown.” Lama says.
For those who end up in Whitby and have a chance to experience 8-Bit Beans, we hope that they don’t have to.