Barcadia set to ‘level up’ after triple blow of bad luck

Owners hit with approximately $60,000 in damages and repairs, GoFundMe page set up
Co-owners Robbie Sheldon and Bambi Gray in front of their hybrid bar/arcade, Barcadia, in downtown Kingston. Photo via Bambi Gray.

Since December 2021, Barcadia — a hybrid bar and retro-game arcade attraction in downtown Kingston — has had to contend with business challenges even beyond the extended lockdowns due to COVID-19, including smashed windows, and recently, water main pipes that burst and soaked their vintage game consoles.

On Tuesday, Jan. 18, 2022, when Robbie Sheldon, Barcadia’s co-owner, entered his arcade, “it sounded like Niagara Falls. Lights were hanging down everywhere, drywall [falling] all over the arcades. There were two inches of water on the floor. It was a disaster,” said Sheldon.

The pipes had burst right above the game consoles, filling them with water. While Sheldon admitted that he could save a few, many of the gaming systems were compromised and had to be destroyed. He noted that when the wood panels absorb water, they become weak and could potentially collapse. “We used to have 40 games, but only half now after the flood,” Sheldon said.

Burst water main pipes in mid-January 2022 damaged the drywall and arcade games at Barcadia on Princess Street. Photo via Robbie Sheldon.

Although Sheldon has insurance, it is capped at $25,000 for water damage, with a $5,000 deductible. With repairs to the drywall and the floors, as well as the replacement of hard-to-find retro game consoles, Sheldon estimated he’ll spend about $60,000.

Smashed windows in December

Barcadia also suffered vandalism in December 2021, when someone smashed the glass storefront windows with a hammer. Police recovered the hammer, but the perpetrator has never been found.

Sheldon was about to board a flight to Mexico for a vacation last year when his manager told him about the damages. “We’re in the airport ready to take off, and I had a call from my manager saying that the windows had been smashed. I scrambled to get a couple of friends to get the glass out and put the plywood up.”

Sheldon said that two days after the vandalism incident, government restrictions mandated that they couldn’t serve alcohol after 9 p.m. “We’re a social bar… people don’t usually come to the bar until 10 p.m. We decided to close down.”

On Jan. 4, 2022, they opted to open for one night, but no one came to the establishment. The full lockdown started the next day. As a result, Barcadia has essentially been closed since Friday, Dec. 10, 2021. “I spent all my savings,” said Sheldon, “then all this happened.”

Barcadia’s beginnings

Sheldon opened Barcadia with a friend in July 2016. He said the concept of a hybrid bar and arcade came to him back in 2011 when he was at home drinking and playing video games with friends, and thought it would be a great concept to merge the two activities.

After a number of years in operation, Sheldon bought out Barcadia’s other owner in November 2021, and brought in his partner, Bambi Gray, as co-owner.

“Typically, our nights [at Barcadia] start at 8 p.m. We get a lot of compliments about how it’s a safe place to go. They’re coming here to have a good time, have some drinks, play video games — Nintendo 64, Sega Genesis and Nintendo,” he shared.

Barcadia regularly sees generations of families come to the arcade together, with parents reliving nostalgic memories and showing the younger generation the vintage machines and games they used to play as kids and teens.

Barcadia owner Robbie Sheldon is hard at work getting the business ready for reopening on Friday, Feb. 4, 2022. Photo via Robbie Sheldon.

Reopening plans

Sheldon has been hard at work repairing the damage at the arcade. “I barely sleep, I’m at the bar from the time I wake up until I can’t stand anymore,” he said. “We need to open.”

He’s surprised by the support he’s been getting from community members, friends, and fans of the arcade. Shane Zimmermann, a regular patron, works across the street from Barcadia. When he heard about Sheldon’s plight, Zimmermann started a GoFundMe page.

Josh Blythen of Trevor Street Drywall helped replace the damaged drywall, and Dylan Mastrianni, a painter at Paint Beast, volunteered to paint retro designs on the walls. “We’re changing things up [with the] new drywall,” said Sheldon. “We have Dylan who does wall murals and custom graphics. He reached out to do the painting for free; we just had to provide materials.”

Barcadia is “ambitious,” Sheldon asserted, and is aiming to reopen on Friday, Feb. 4, 2022. “I’ve been spending every penny I have, working tirelessly day and night.”

The landlord supplied $500-worth of materials for Sheldon to help repair the damage. Pizzas and lunches were donated by supporters, and friends came out for hours to lend a hand with the labour.

Sheldon expressed his gratitude for the help Barcadia has received. “It’s been overwhelmingly amazing. I never expected so much. It tells me that we’re doing the right thing to keep it going. If [customers] come down and support us when we open, there will be games and booze. I feel guilty asking anyone for anything… [but] every dollar helps.”

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