Walt’s, Eagle Rock’s newest arcade bar — located on the corner of Westdale Avenue and Eagle Rock Boulevard — had its grand opening Feb. 16. The bar inhabits the iconic Connors Plumbing storefront; the plumbing company has owned and operated the building since 1928 and remains in business at the back. Inside, a neon rooster and a row of pinball machines give off a warm red glow. The bar carries brews from Seattle to Los Angeles and offers classic arcade fare like pretzels and hot dogs. The nostalgic 90s arcade vibe is completed with wood panel walls and an old-fashioned peanut machine.
The bar, which is co-owned by brothers Brad and Jeff Johnsen and their friend, Travis Echert, has been in the works for about 14 months. This is the brothers’ second bar; their first one in Seattle, Add-a-Ball, features a wider selection of arcade machines.
Jeff Johnsen was also the previous co-owner of Choke, a moped shop in East Hollywood. The business closed in April 2015 after the supply of mopeds in the United States came to a halt, but Stevie Acevedo, who worked at Choke and helped the owners start up Walt’s, said the shop inspired the idea for an arcade bar.
“The community vibe of [Choke] was really great and it became a hangout spot for our friend group,” Acevedo said. “We had one of these pinball machines in there that people would play.”
The owners hoped to preserve the historical look of Connors by keeping the neon green clock and lining that wraps around the building, according to Johnsen. They transformed the white wrought-iron fence that wraps around the front into a patio with a ledge for drinks, stools and two picnic-style tables.
Matty Watts, a bartender at Add-a-Ball, came down for the opening of Walt’s and said he immediately sensed a similar environment.
“When I go in for work at Add-a-Ball, I have a good idea of what to expect. We have like 60 regulars, which gives it a strong community feel,” Watts said. “But what’s incredible is that I already feel that vibe here and it’s only the first day.”
According to Johnsen, the mid-priced menu (the most expensive item is $9) is designed to be accessible enough to draw in a crowd of diverse individuals.
“We don’t know what audience we’re expecting but [we’re] just keeping it open to everyone. We’re putting something out there and seeing what will happen,” Acevedo said.
Nora Killian (senior) believes the opening of Walt’s is representative of the changing culture of Eagle Rock that she has seen over her past four years at Occidental.
“I think gentrification is tricky because a single bar is not changing a neighborhood itself, but I would say that Walt’s is part of an influx of new businesses in this neighborhood that is targeting a younger and higher-income demographic,” Killian said. “As Oxy students, I think we should be aware of our own effects in the surrounding area.”
Although Walt’s was not aimed specifically at Occidental students, it is the closest bar to campus — only a six-minute walk from Newcomb Hall. For students 21 years and older, it is one of the limited options for bars in walking distance.
“It’s nice having another bar away from Block Party and The York because that scene gets pretty boring after a while,” Eva Jahanshir (junior) said. “I think having a $4 beer definitely makes it student-friendly.”
According to Acevedo, Walt’s is open daily 11 a.m.–2 a.m. and is the only spot on the strip of Eagle Rock between York and Colorado open that late.