ARCADE (BEEP!) RUNS THE BOARD (BWOOP!)

yestercades003An artist’s rendering of the ’boutique’ video game arcade planned for 80 Broad Street. Below right, owner Ken Kalada shares a laugh with zoning board member Tom Williams after the board’s unanimous approval. (Click to enlarge)

ken-kaladaAs a Pac-Man-loving preteen in Lincroft, Ken Kalada used to weep, he said, because his father wouldn’t allow him to visit a video game arcade in Eatontown because it was too seedy.

By the time he was 12, though, Kalada was collecting video games and pinball machines of his own, acquiring them via Usenet groups before eBay was a gleam in anyone’s eye. He was also spending time soaking up the atmosphere at a a retro pool hall that opened in the Galleria at Red Bank in the ’90s.

Neither experience, he said, wrecked his morals. In fact, people of his cohort – he’s 29 – and up to their late 40s are deeply nostalgic for the Mario Brothers and other electronic games of their youth, he said.

To answer that need, Kalada intends to transform a 2,800-square-foot former clothing store on Broad Street in Red Bank into a “boutique” video game lounge, one that’s open as late as 2 a.m. to satisfy the joystick cravings of eternal adolescence.

On Thursday night, the borough zoning board unanimously agreed the idea was a good one, in spite of the fact that such businesses aren’t permitted in the zone in which the store at 80 Broad is located, and that the store could provide none of the estimated 20 parking spaces it would create a need for.

Kalada also persuaded board members that his business, to be called Yestercades, would not become a magnet for loiterers. He outlined plans to issue wristbands to all who entered, to closely monitor who was doing what inside, and to charge each patron on the way out based on the time spent inside.

“Loitering won’t be tolerated,” he said.

He also told the board that while private parties would be able to reserve the store and serve alcohol, that, too, would be closely watched for abuse.

The idea, he said, is to foster family entertainment served with a CPU-ful of nostalgia.

“It allows customers to escape their busy lives,” he said.

“I think it’s a good approach,” said board member Tom Williams, who made the motion to approve the plan.

Kalada’s appearance before the board came six months after Mayor Pasquale Menna, citing a desire to create more varied attractions downtown, proposed loosening up zoning laws to allow arcades, small theaters and other uses now prohibited.

Kalada, of Morford Place, told redbankgreen that he had lobbied both Menna and Red Bank RiverCenter with his idea for Yestercades. And though no zoning change has yet followed Menna’s call, the only thing that stopped Kalada from moving ahead sooner with his plan was finding the right space, he said.

That space turned out to be 80 Broad, the former home of LJ’s Total Man/Today’s Woman clothing store, which closed in late 2007 and has been vacant since, except to host a seasonal Halloween costume business. There, Kalada said he plans to install some 75 games of varying vintage, from Atari 2600s and XBox and Wii to classic pinball machines of the 1960s.

The business, he and a hired planner said, will draw in customers to the restaurants and bars downtown, and offset the depletion of street activity that follows the closing of brokerage houses and other offices.

Kalada said he hopes to open by mid-September, stocking the lounge with a personal collection of games now stored in the basement of his parent’s Lincroft home and an airplane hangar at Monmouth Executive Airport in Wall Township.