SALEM — In an effort to adapt to the COVID-19 pandemic, Bit Bar is allowing customers to rent out their entire arcade space to parties of 10 for private events.
“We’re very passionate about doing anything we can to keep the business alive while keeping a safe space where people can have a little fun,” said Eric Spackman, the opening general manager.
The private rentals began in late November, and averages between two to three rentals per day, on Tuesdays and Wednesdays, when the deal is offered. In the past week they recorded five private rentals.
After this initial success, Bit Bar will be expanding its private rentals to Mondays and possibly Thursdays.
Customers can either book the entire arcade, which costs $225 for an hour and 45 minutes, or a back room at $125 for the same amount of time. During peak hours, the back room costs $225.
Parties that book the entire arcade are granted exclusive use of the entire restaurant and floor, unlimited game tokens and a personal server.
These private rentals are COVID-conscious, with customers required to wear face coverings at all times unless eating or drinking, and the space sanitized between each booking.
Bit Bar is one of a few Massachusetts arcades now offering full space rentals, including The Quarters in Hadley.
The idea of arcade rentals was chosen instead of another idea floated by an owner — turning the restaurant into a carhop.
The barcade is also open to customers with or without a reservation from 4 p.m. to 10 p.m. on Thursdays and Fridays and on Saturday and Sunday from noon to 10 p.m.
Bit Bar was originally opened in 2016 on the site of the Salem’s 19th century jail, and has since become a popular Salem tourist destination. The space had previously been an A&B Burgers, and had been the Great Escape Restaurant before that.
The arcade was closed shortly after the onset of the pandemic and didn’t reopen until August.
“During the initial shutdown we just stayed open for takeout and delivery and we put aside a portion of our proceeds to help our staff out until the CARES Act money kicked in,” said Spackman. “Once that happened, we shut down completely.”
Salem restaurants have struggled to adapt during the pandemic, with several closing up shop for the winter. Most recently, Gulu-Gulu Cafe announced that it would temporarily shut down until the spring, starting Jan. 3. In a Facebook post, they asked for patrons to assist their staff by coming in before their closing and to “consider tipping heavily.”
Previously, Olde Main Street Pub shut down for the winter, and East Sakura Buffet closed permanently.
Spackman hopes that, with the new adjustments, Bit Bar can remain open through the winter.