Prolonged Alco-lescence: What’s With All the Kids’ Games in Bars?

Back in July, the website Brokelyn threw a party at Williamsburg’s Crown Victoria that it dubbed “Salute Your Jorts.” The theme of the evening was summer camp. A “bug juice cocktail” was just $4. In addition to Ping-Pong and bocce, the planned activities included spin the bottle and making friendship bracelets and macaroni art. Attendees were told, “don’t forget clean undies, just in case they get strung up the flagpole.” It sounded horrible, the low-water mark of a trend in recent years of turning bars into amusement parks for adults.

Nevertheless, the event was a rousing success: it turned out that the appetite for atavism was robust among the drinky class in New York.

“Just because we’re older doesn’t mean we don’t like the same things as when we were kids,” explained Tim Donnelly, who helped organize the event. “We can just be drunk while doing it now.”

He restated the problem, “If there were a Chuck E. Cheese for grownups, I would totally go.”

As it turns out, there is; in fact, there are many of them. In the past half-dozen years or so—at an increasing rate—bars with children’s games have been opening in New York, particularly in the garland of yuppie Brooklyn extending from Gowanus to Greenpoint.

At Red Hook’s Brooklyn Crab, there is mini-golf and cornhole, a beanbag-tossing game. In Clinton Hill, there is the Brooklyn Tap room, with foosball and Ping-Pong tables. In Williamsburg, one finds Barcade, with its vintage video-game machines; Full Circle, a skee-ball-themed bar, and Bushwick Country Club, which features a down-at-the-heels putt-putt course out back. In Manhattan there is Susan Sarandon’s SPiN, a boozy table-tennis club, and the West Village’s Fat Cat, the apotheosis of the phenomenon, which features a myriad of games, including Ping-Pong tables for “$5.50/per person/per hour (prorated .09/min) Sun-Thu.”

And they have done very well catering to the new alco-lescent crowds.

But whatever happened to just having a drink and a lively conversation? The idea that intelligent, interesting adults could gather over some glasses of one fortified thing or another and carry on an exchange of sentiment and ideas while getting somewhere between reasonably and blindingly drunk? While such things do still happen in some corners of the city, there is an annoying emergence of these establishments that not only cater to but encourage patrons who prefer to behave like their much younger selves.

“Everyone knows this—it’s not something I think—there’s a very prolonged youthfulness now. It really seems to last forever!” author and conversationalist Fran Lebowitz told The Observer recently. “Their idea of being sociable is not to sit around and talk. Their idea of being sociable is to sit around and play games. To me, this seems childish. Whenever people ask me to play a game, I say, ‘I don’t play games.’ And they say, ‘Why?’ And I say, ‘Because it’s a game … There’s been a general disappearance of adulthood.”

To Ms. Lebowitz, who will be in conversation onstage with Frank Rich at Town Hall later this month, there is little in life more important than the verbal arts.

“Conversation to me is something that requires lot of time. I don’t want to sound conceited, but I think you’d have to look long and hard to find someone who has wasted more time than me. I mean, I’ve wasted decades of my life—mostly talking! Talking to me is something that fills my life.

“When our current and perhaps endless mayor, when he was only in his like 10th term, whenever he made that smoking law in bars—which actually really shocked me—I actually said to him—although if you were questioning him, he would not recall this—I said, ‘Do you want to know what sitting around in bars and restaurants talking and smoking is called? The history of art, that’s what it’s called.’”

Indeed. It’s hard to imagine many great ideas have been hatched over a microbrew and a foosball table.

Prolonged Alco-lescence: What’s With All the Kids’ Games in Bars?