Has Mahmood claps his hands together and yells “man!” as he takes a step back from a pinball machine emblazoned with the words “Attack From Mars.” Mahmood, you see, was on a roll before his final ball slipped past the flippers he frantically controlled. Mahmood, focused, hunches back over the arcade game and launches another ball into the glass-covered playfield filled with neon lights, targets, bumpers and ramps. “Pinball is something that, if you learn how to play, it’s addictive,” Mahmood says with a grin. Mahmood is breaking in one of several dozens of arcade games he has stationed inside a new ’70s-themed arcade bar he’s preparing to open this summer in Downtown Reno. Playfield ’76 is a remodel of the former Imperial Bar, tucked on North Arlington Avenue, which Mahmood and his business partner purchased a couple years ago. Mahmood said they shut down Imperial in 2019 and were beginning the remodel and permitting process in early 2020 before the pandemic put a pause on their business plan. “We had a pretty big shortfall of funding and were left in an uncomfortable position of how do we continue with this?” said Mahmood, seated at a table inside Playfield ’76. “We had already collected most of these games and started reorganizing our process and getting our tenant improvements done. There was anxiety and numbness when you didn’t have a lot of control when it first hit.” Those feelings faded after the vaccine was approved and began rolling out across the country, said Mahmood, who even signed up to participate in a vaccine trial.
Has Mahmood stands outside Playfield ’76 on North Arlington Avenue in Downtown Reno on June 9, 2021. Photo: Kaleb M. Roedel
“I started feeling, ‘OK, there’s hope,’” he said. “And America is the most social country, so I knew things would kind of come back at some point.” ‘GOOD ENERGY AND GOOD TIMES’ Months later, Mahmood is preparing to launch his new venture. Pre-COVID, he spent months driving a moving truck to cities all over the West Coast — from Las Vegas to San Diego to Portland — to scoop up arcade games he bought online for his new business. The cost of each game, he said, ranges from about $800 to $2,000. In all, he said Playfield ’76 has 30-35 video games and pinball machines plugged in and ready to play. One of his prized purchases is the Attack on Mars pinball machine, which he said is in “pristine condition.” Other arcade games he was especially happy to give a new home include NBA Jam, Time Crisis II and The Simpsons, as well as the pinball machine Medieval Madness. “I’ve kind of fallen in love with this concept because I feel like (arcade-themed bars) tend to invite good energy and good times,” Mahmood said. “There’s also a big range of people that come in here. It’s not just the 21-year-olds. It’s people that grew up on these games — people in their ‘40s and ‘50s that played them when they were in their teens. It’s honestly cool seeing a 50-year-old and 21-year-old playing the same game. That’s kind of dope. That’s why we wanted to do (an arcade bar).”
Has Mahmood plays the pinball machine Attack From Mars at his business, Playfield ’76, on June 9, 2021. Photo: Kaleb M. Roedel
Playfield ’76 will offer up more than arcade games to customers, too. Along with craft beer and cocktails, the business will serve pizza, wings, sandwiches, salads and more. Mahmood said he plans to open Playfield ’76 in early August. Until then, he’s focused on hiring staff and getting everything dialed in before launching. “It took a while to not get too high or too low — something we learned as business owners through the pandemic — but I’m pretty excited now,” Mahmood said. “We’re honestly looking forward to being part of the community and be part of the fabric. “We’re going to take a lot of pride in helping expand food and beverage culture and adding something that will make people feel at home and excited about.” PRESS START STILL ON PAUSE Speaking of arcade bars, Press Start Reno is in the process of moving into its new location in Reno’s Midtown district. The business moved out of its previous Midtown location at 1413 S. Virginia St. late last year after struggling to stay afloat during waves of COVID shutdowns. Moreover, that location was sold in November to Nevada Physical Therapy, which renovated the property and opened for business earlier this year. Thanks to the help of various community donations — including a GoFundMe launched last fall that as of last week had raised more than $17,000 — Press Start announced this April that the business signed a long-term lease across town at 600 S. Center St. As of late June, Press Start owner John Simpson told the NNBW the business was still working its way through the City of Reno’s permitting process; an opening date is yet to be determined.
EDITOR'S NOTE: This story has been corrected from its original version to remove the term "barcade" in all references. New York-based company Barcade, which launched in 2004, holds the registered trademark for the name “Barcade." the NNBW apologizes for the error.