The Life and Death of the Video Arcade

Big Daddy’s Amusement Center, Pinellas Park, Florida, 1983. (Weaver Tripp/St. Petersburg Times)

Once upon a time, Big Daddy’s “set no particular hours” and was often found open at 3:00am, thank you very much.

But in 1983 the wicked City Council, “upset about youngsters who loitered and caused trouble near the game arcade,” cast a surly spell over all the neighborhood kids in the form of an 11:00pm curfew.

Then, in 1986, a judge threw out 21 counts of curfew violation because prosecutors could not prove owner Bruce Houghton was in “direct control of the premises” when the citations were issued. Houghton, exiting the courthouse with a smirk, declared the curfew unconstitutional and vowed to continue breaking it.

Skip to 1998. Upon spying what was once Big Daddy’s, entrepreneur Ken Schwartz exclaimed, “The building is really a dump.” But he knew the area was ripe for redevelopment, so he bought the dump and “gutted Big Daddy’s to create the futuristically styled headquarters for his food service consulting company.”

Skip to 2006. What was once “a rather tacky strip that sported rundown mobile home parks, used-car dealerships and pawnshops with stuffed, costumed gorillas out front”—not to mention video arcades driven to extinction—is now “a throughway featuring national chains and upgraded commercial properties with high-end condominiums tucked behind.”

The End

(Image via Coots Imagery)

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