See inside the renovated Up-Down before it opens in Des Moines this weekend
Up-Down owners Sam Summers and Josh Ivey recently gave the Register a look at the remodeling project at the East Village location. Des Moines Register
Up-Down leveled up.
The popular East Village arcade bar expanded this month into the floor above its basement location at 500 E. Locust Nearly doubling in size, the throwback arcade haunt adds a kitchen and second bar, seating space and, yes, more games.
Upgraded Up-Down reopens at 5 p.m. Friday. Take a look inside some of the changes you’ll see the next time you're slinging skeeball with your friends.
The new floor
Adding a second floor helps Up-Down Des Moines mirror the success co-owner Josh Ivey and Sam Summers found after opening locations in Minneapolis, Kansas City and Milwaukee. Adding the bar, seating areas and bathrooms should help a busy Friday night feel less congested, Ivey said.
Up-Down first opened its East Village doors in 2013 and ownership didn’t consider leaving the neighborhood when planning an expansion.
‘We wanted to hold on to what was unique about the Des Moines location,” Ivey said. “We figured it would keep everything people did like about the Up-Down, originally, and add to it and fix some of the problems it had before.”
A high-top bar lines the first floor east wall and more than a dozen television screens — ready to play “WrestleMania” reruns, of course — come mounted above the gaming cabinets. The space fits 15 games, three rows of skeeball and three pinball machines.
Shoutouts to 1980s and 1990s nostalgia — John Nicholson’s Joker and John Travolta's Vincent Vega from “Pulp Fiction,” to name a few — cover the upstairs walls. New neon signs, glowing with catchphrases such as “keep the change, you filthy animal” and “heroes get remembered but legends never die” light corners of the basement.
A staircase near the bar’s west wall joins the two rooms — showering the once dimly-lit basement with sunlight from the floor above. The staircase adds an essential component, Ivey said, ensuring visitors that they’re at one complete bar, not two stand-alone spaces.
Summers added: “When you’re standing down there it feels so much bigger now. You don’t have that low ceiling above you. It feels less cramped.”
The bar upgrades from about 50 games to nearly 90, said Ivey. Adding space upstairs allowed for a reorganization in the basement, where rows of cabinets fill space formerly occupied by booths.
Some large cabinets, such as the Simpsons and four-player Pacman, moved upstairs. Additional Killer Instinct cabinets have been added downstairs.
More highlighted additions include Ice Cold Beer, Crystal Castles, Joust and Double Dragon.
Overall, the bar grew from 2,500 to 4,500 square-feet. The expansion took about three months.
“Moving in the upstairs space has allowed us to really use the downstairs space even more for a ton of games,” Ivey said. “This location might end up having more games than the other locations do.”
Beer and food
The upstairs bar hosts 30 beer taps, adding 10 options what pours in the basement. Those lines plan to be home to craft favorites — Bell’s Brewing, Founders Brewing and Iowa’s own Madhouse during opening weekend, for example.
Previously the only Up-Down location without a kitchen, arcade-goers can now snag pizza-by-the-slice for about $4. The bar is celebrating this by offering free pizza and tokens to the 100 people who walk through the door Friday. Menu options at most Up-Down locations include standards such as pepperoni and cheese, as well as specialty pies: Mac and cheese, Philly beef or bacon-and-ham meat pizza.
The bar plans to continue hosting nightly coin and drink specials, as well as after concerts at Wooly’s, the neighboring music club. Up-Down plans to expand weekend hours, opening at noon, instead of 2 p.m., on Saturday and Sunday.
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