Pac-Man, Dig Dug, Donkey Kong, Madonna, Michael Jackson and Rubik's Cubes all will reclaim pop culture royalty at Flashback Retro Pub, an entertainment venue and bar set to open as part of the new Rise shopping center in Uptown.
Dirt work and demolition are getting started at The Rise, NW 23 and Walker, but Jose Rodriguez and Mark Temple are busy buying up vintage arcade games and planning what they envision as a celebration of the 1980s.
The men became friends when Rodriguez was assigned as Temple's ticket representative when Oklahoma City was home to the NBA Hornets. A visit to The Max in Tulsa, an '80s-themed bar, inspired the pair to create a similar concept in downtown Oklahoma City.
“The Max is the '80s and the '90s, and it's awesome,” Rodriguez said. “I really wished we could do something here, and my first thought was if I could do this, where would it be?”
That was two years ago, and at the time, Rodriguez looked at the NW 23 Uptown area and dismissed it as not being ready for such a venue. He then negotiated with a couple of property owners along Automobile Alley, failed to find a good fit, and looked for space in the 16th Street Plaza District, only to find he was too late — all the good spaces had been taken.
Rodriguez visited with Scott Smith, owner of the Arcade Building at 629 W Main. Smith liked the idea, but cautioned Rodriguez he could face alcohol zoning difficulties with an elementary being built one block north along Sheridan Avenue. Smith then referred Rodriguez back to Uptown and to Rise developer Jonathan Russell.
Russell had already signed a deal with Ian McDermid to renovate the old Texaco station on the property and turn into a concept bar named “Pump.”
“I love the concept and I liked the proprietors,” Russell said. “Concept bars like this will do well here, and they will be successful — they are what I'm looking for in terms of tenants that will be around long term.”
In just one year, Uptown had gained vibrancy and momentum that convinced Rodriguez that Uptown was now the right fit for his bar. Grandad's, a nonsmoking old-fashioned country bar, had opened up and quickly become a neighborhood favorite. New restaurants, including Back Door BBQ, were drawing even more people to the area.
Merchants were getting organized, and Russell was set to turn one of the corridor's worst eyesores, formerly home to a motel furniture liquidation store, into an upscale shopping center.
Rodriguez has already acquired several vintage arcade games (he plans to offer up to 20 when the bar opens) and is creating large Rubik's Cube cocktail tables. The layout for the bar includes an area where patrons can perform Karaoke to 1980s music videos playing on a projector screen, or enjoy montages of favorite clips of '80s movies and television shows on yet another screen.
Rodriguez believes his love of the 1980s is shared by a large segment of the population that appreciates the groundbreaking changes that took place during the decade.
“If you born in the early '80s, a teen or in your early twenties at the time, you know the '80s changed the country,” Rodriguez said. “There were so many events that took place that changed politics, music and movies. And when you look back on those movies and that music, they just don't make them like that anymore.”