Retro arcade Radbar opens in Fort Walton Beach
FORT WALTON BEACH – RadBar is as much of an arcade and bar as it is a living room away from home.
The new Fort Walton Beach venue, tucked just off of Eglin Parkway Northeast on Staff Drive, features a bar with beer, sake and wine, 15 or so (working) retro arcade games and multiplayer video game consoles. It marks the second “Rad” business opened by co-owners Joe Alonzo and his wife Sam Vandiver — who opened the vintage video game shop Rad Junk in 2016 in Fort Walton Beach.
Their new gaming venue/communal living room combines their love for vintage gaming and niche craft beer.
“(It’s) like we’re hanging out at someone’s house, but there’s a central location so nobody feels obligated to do so,” Alonzo said. “People can try some new beers they haven’t tried before, play some games they haven’t played before. We just want to be that place where people can come hang out and feel comfortable.
“We were recently described as the most punk-rock place in Fort Walton.”
Alonzo and Vandiver were enamored with gaming of all kinds from a young age. Alonzo traced his first Nintendo back to 1989.
“I was obsessed, I was basically like, ‘There’s a cartoon on a screen, which is a video game, and I’m controlling this,’ ” Alonzo said. “Arcades were like the pinnacle because we were like, ‘Arcades have the best graphics.’ I’m super nerdy.”
The arcade scene was his playground.
“I grew up with Street Fighter and Pole Position at Chuck E. Cheese and Aladdin’s Castle and Diamond Jim’s,” Alonzo said. “I always thought it would be cool to open one, not that I thought that was something attainable.”
Turned out, it was.
Over the past few years Alonzo has collected arcade games and stashed them in storage units until they could find a more permanent home. Securing a location for RadBar was the toughest part, Vandiver said.
They dig where it ended up. Being situated next to Popeye’s is just one of its perks.
“The great thing about the space is it’s a concrete shoebox, and I can do whatever I want,” Alonzo said. “What more could you ask for?”
“I was worried being away from downtown would hurt us, but I kinda like it now that we’re a destination,” Vandiver said. “People are coming here to come here.”
Arcade games aren’t the only things Alonzo is known to hoard. Web domain names are another. It’s how their two rad brick and mortars earned their name.
“I bought Radjunk.com on a whim,” Alonzo said. “Probably had a couple beers and was like, ‘This sounds cool,’ in probably 2011 or 2012. We opened (Rad Junk) in 2016, and I don’t know, I’m old and I use terms like ‘rad.’”
The couple never predicted they would own two businesses.
“I might be described as overly ambitious,” Alonzo said. “I’m like, ‘Let’s do it all, all the time.’ ”
“Sometimes I have to bring him back down to earth,” Vandiver said with a laugh.
It took two months, give or take, to prepare the space now illuminated with colorful, neon lights. The machines aren’t exactly cutting edge technology.
“Before we opened, me and my buddy were in here until 3 a.m. every single night working on stuff, constantly trying to bulletproof it,” Alonzo said. “They’re more resilient than people give them credit for – as far as people beating on them while they’re playing them. However, the electronics in them are not always the best, or you’re having to repair 30 years of repairs.”
Some of the most popular games are Turbo, a racing game; Ultimate Mortal Kombat 3, a fighting game; and Bust-A-Move, a bubble puzzle game. Wii Sports — namely bowling — is surprisingly popular, too, Vandiver said. It also has classics such as Donkey Kong Junior and Pac-Man.
Customers won’t spot a change dispenser, though. They won’t need it.
“No quarters or tokens, because I think back to when I was a kid; I didn’t grow up with much money,” Alonzo said. “I’d be out of that dollar or two my parents could afford to give me, and I’d be like, ‘Aw, man, I’m sad now.’ It’s $10 all you can play.”