The Town That Hated Arcades

The Town That Hated Arcades
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The Town That Hated Arcades
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The Town That Hated Arcades
Published on
April 19, 2023
Updated on
April 19, 2023
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The wild story of Arnie Kaye vs. Westport, Connecticut 

Westport, Connecticut. Just your average suburban town. But like Westview in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, things in Westport were not as they seemed.

Much like the town from Footloose that hated dancing, Westport hated arcades. Instead of a lithe Kevin Bacon, our leading man in this story is a 6’5”, 300+ pound George Wendt-sized bear of a man a little off his rocker: Arnie Kaye.

Arnie Kaye was a millionaire who, along with his family, owned Irving Kaye Company in Stamford, Connecticut.

Every time someone says Stamford, my mind immediately goes to The Office.

That company was doing the Lord’s work: they were the largest manufacturer of billiards tables in the world. Arnie had a dream to open what he felt Westport was missing: a video game arcade for kids. He went before the town council and presented his idea for Arnie’s Place, an arcade with an “elegant atmosphere” (just what kids love in an arcade), and said it would be run by a staff of blazer-wearing employees and (get this) off-duty cops. A simple plan, right? Wrong. Arnie’s Place was shot down 6-0 by the Westport Planning and Zoning Committee!

Why? The Green’s Farms Association didn’t want their town to become a city. They feared their fragile little children would be exposed to the dangerous, addictive world of… games. Why go to an arcade, they argued, when the town already had super fun places to hang out like the YMCA, church, and school? Said John Fisher, the group’s president, “Heartbreak feels good in a place like this.” 

JK. (Just Kidman-ing.)

JK. What John Fisher actually said was, “Places like this draw the wrong type of people from out of town, the type we don’t want our kids to associate with.” 

What Westport was
What they thought Arnie’s Place would turn Westport into

The commission thought Arnie’s Place represented the threat of being a public nuisance. Little did they know what a nuisance Arnie Kaye would become. 

Arnie Kaye countered the decision by decreeing it “unconstitutional” and by calling the association “snobs” and “racists.” He came back with a scaled-down plan asking for 40 electronic games, 8 pool tables, and hey, even threw in the extra parking the commission asked for… you know, for all those prepubescent kids with driver’s licenses. He even said all attendants would have copies of school calendars for all schools within a 25-mile radius. If a kid tried to skip school to go to the arcade, the attendants could catch them, and the PA system would even be used to call children home for dinner. The city still rejected him. 

“If the town does me harm, I will do the town harm.” - Arnie Kaye

Next, Arnie Kaye did what any sane man would do: he chained himself to the town hall. He gave out T-shirts that said “I Support Arnie’s Place.” He hired a guy dressed as Pac-Man to walk around and hand out $50 bills to anyone wearing the shirts. He went scorched-earth on the town and brought his case all the way to the Connecticut Supreme Court and won the right to open his arcade. 

Arnie’s Place finally opened on June 14, 1982. Three weeks later, a judge ordered it closed. Why? The arcade was zoned for a max of 50 games, but Arnie had put in 80. Arnie offers a solution: since the town was fine with porno theaters but not arcades, he could open in its palace Seiden’s Porno Palace, named after town councilman Wiliam (Bill) Seiden. Talk about the ultimate clapback! He also considered allowing the notorious Hell’s Angels biker group free lodging in his houses.

The town caved.

Arnie’s Place opens back up. A year later, when Arnie Kaye was presented a town beautification award, guess who presented it to him? William Seiden. Seiden also loses the next election.

The lesson?

Don’t mess with Arnie Kaye, a man who once shot and killed a burglar in his house. (Small credit to Seiden, who later admitted he was wrong about the arcade and that it was good for the town and its children. But also, the man thought video games were like cocaine for kids, so the jury’s still out on him.)

Video game arcades weren’t Arnie Kaye’s only passion. He ran an adjacent ice cream parlor called Georgie Porgie’s ice cream and International Deli.

Let’s talk about International Deli for a sec. It took over a year for Arnie to get a liquor license for International Deli. What did he do in the meantime? What any eccentric millionaire would do to stick it to the man: gave out the alcohol for free!

International Deli is also where Arnie produced and sold his own sauce called A.2 Sauce. That’s not a typo. A.2 Sauce. Nabisco, who owned A.1 Sauce at the time, brought him to court, and Arnie Kaye got his ass absolutely handed to him. He also paid his taxes in pennies. Arnie Kaye was truly a character.

What games did Arnie’s Place have?

Arnie’s Place was popular for a reason.

There was Skee-Ball, Ms. Pac-Man, Paperboy, Turbo, Gauntlet, TRON, Dig Dug, Dragon’s Lair, Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom, Atari Star Wars: Return of the Jedi, air hockey, claw machines, a Fathom pinball machine, and the Grand Slam pinball machine, among others. For a complete list of games that have been verified as having been played at Arnie’s Place (and some that haven’t been verified), head to the virtual Arnie's Place.

A crazy game that Arnie’s Place had was Journey Escape, a video game starring—you guessed it—classic rock band Journey! 8-bit “Don’t Stop Believin’” and everything.

In the game, you got into “Scarab Escape Vehicles” and tried to get away from groupies, photographers, and promoters… basically the same plot as the notorious Disney California Adventure ride Superstar Limo.

Check out an awesome commercial for Journey Escape.

Arnie’s Place closed on September 18, 1994. Arnie spent over $1M on legal disputes during the arcade’s operation. RIP Arnie’s Place, which is now an Anthropologie—and part of arcade game archaeology.

“It became a good place for young people to play.” - William Seiden

“Duh.” - All of us