WATERVILLE — A handful of customers count themselves as the founding members of The 50 Beer Club.

The video game-themed cocktail list is sure to bring back memories for the ’80s and ’90s kids. Pac-Man and Ms. Pac-Man, NBA Jam, NFL Blitz, Pinball, Skee-Ball, ping pong, air hockey and more highlight the namesake arcade portion of the business.

This is the new Drip City Arcade Bar on the West River Road. Open for just over a month, the family-run business is already building a loyal following despite opening during the coronavirus pandemic.

“I see it as an opportunity,” said Andy Chapman, the bar’s 40-year-old general manager, co-owner and big fan of arcade games. “There’s a need in the market. At some point, the doors are going to be open and we want to be there for when it happens.”

Andy and Amanda Chapman’s idea for their first business started well before the pandemic, but it came to fruition during this winter. They moved back to Winslow from Charleston, South Carolina, three years ago. Andy wanted to start a business after working for years in industrial construction.

It’s a true family operation with daughters Nya and Alonna serving as hostesses.

This is Alonna (Carerros) Chapman’s first job. The 16-year-old Winslow High School sophomore’s favorite part of the weekend is when the dance lights switch on at 9 p.m. Friday and Saturday nights.

“Everybody gets in an uplifted mood,” she said. “It’s a good thing during the pandemic because it’s a sad time. It’s good to get people happy.”

Nya Chapman, a 17-year-old junior at Winslow High School, worked as a hostess at a restaurant when the family lived in South Carolina. Working for a family-owned establishment is different.

“It doesn’t necessarily feel like a job because I’m hanging out with my dad and my sister,” she said. “I work harder because it’s for my dad.”

Andy Chapman also credits bartender Morgan Fox, head server Tayler Collins and cook Landon Hotham, Alonna’s boyfriend, for helping the arcade bar get off to a smooth start.

Amanda Chapman, 37, is pulling double duty. She closes the bar most nights after a full day’s work at UPS. Long days, yes, but enjoyable. Drip City Arcade Bar has to follow a list of guidelines for both the restaurant/bar and arcade/entertainment portions of the facility.

“Despite the restrictions, we have return customers and have regulars,” she said. “It’s been really positive. It’s been a lot, but it’s easier when it’s yours.”

Why start an arcade bar, anyways?

“We live in a college town, but you’d never know it by the things there are to do,” Andy Chapman said. “I think there’s a big market for this kind of nostalgia.”

The Chapmans first looked at a smaller space on the corner of Main and Temple streets in downtown Waterville but opted to lease the former Joseph’s Fireside Steakhouse which closed in May due to the pandemic. Thomas College is less than a mile down the road. Colby College is less than five miles away. There’s also exposure for traffic off of Interstate 95 and those traveling to and from Augusta.

There are pros and cons for the current location. While there may not be foot traffic or direct exposure from a downtown location, there are advantages to the current digs. Overlooking the Pine Ridge Municipal Golf Course, the 2,000-square-foot building became the best option because of its expanded size and capacity options to fit within pandemic regulations.

“If people come here, they come here,” Andy Chapman said. “We feel we can retain them and not just be a part of their night.”

They hope Drip City Arcade Bar becomes a destination with its 30-foot bar, plenty of tables, unique flair and an overlook of the golf course. There’s potential for a “mutually beneficial relationship” between the golf course and the arcade bar. As for the Beer Club, if you try all 50 on the list (not all at once) you get on a plaque. The food menu includes appetizers and full meals.

“We’re trying to appeal to two demographics,” Andy Chapman said.

An early January 2021 opening was fortuitous timing, but not tangentially related to Maine Gov. Janet Mills lifting a 9 p.m. business curfew a month into the arcade bar’s opening. Once that happened, hours instantly expanded. Drip City Arcade Bar is open seven days a week from 3-11 p.m. in addition to Sunday brunch.

While they are limited to 50 people inside due to pandemic restrictions, the future maximum occupancy is 278. Drip City Bar Arcade is charting its own course in a unique location, but the city’s overall revitalization excites the team about the future.

“We just kind of took a chance,” Andy Chapman said. “I wanted to be a small business owner in Waterville because I love what’s going on here and I want to be a part of it.”

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