Gabriel Fowlkes grew up in the golden era of the video arcade. The North Carolina native played Altered Beast and Final Fight at 7-Elevens and worked in an arcade during high school. As an adult living in Los Angeles, the 33-year-old Fowlkes has collected and restored the retro video and pinball games of his youth and has been involved in events, tournaments, and exhibitions to “keep arcade culture alive and relevant.” Now, Fowlkes has teamed up with fellow arcade game enthusiast Jordan Weiss in a effort to open a combination video arcade-restaurant-bar inside a former Echo Park laundromat.
“One day we were walking by the Laundromat on Sunset and half-jokingly talked about how great it would be to transform one coin-op business into another,” Fowlkes said. “Literally a few weeks later there was a For Lease sign on the door.”
The proposed restaurant-arcade was inspired by Ground Kontrol, a Portland arcade where gamers can play at more than 80 classic video and pin ball games and purchase beer and wine. Fowlkes and Weiss plan to use part of their collection of vintage arcade games – which includes classics like Defender and Frogger and cult favorites like Krull and Michael Jackson’s Moonwalker – in their Echo Park arcade and serve food off a menu created by Starry Kitchen, a popular pan-Asian downtown restaurant.
Fowlkes and Weiss are still in the early stages of planning their venture for the nearly 4,000-square-foot space. They have appeared before community groups and representatives of the Echo Park neighborhood council as they prepare to file for zoning variances and alcohol licenses. During a recent presentation before the planning committee of the Greater Echo Park Elysian Neighborhood Council, one board member expressed opposition to another late-night restaurant bar serving alcohol on Sunset Boulevard. Another board member voiced concern about additional traffic and parking problems caused by the new venue, which plans to hold several tournaments and special events over the year.
“We’ve been working closely with community members and leaders during this preliminary process to address any potential concerns,” Fowlkes said in an email. “We are very confident that issues that are brought up can be solved to everyone’s satisfaction. Echo Park has become a hub for classic gaming culture, being home to I Am 8 Bit, Pins n Needles, and a host of indie game creators, and we want to create something that the neighborhood will really enjoy.”