When every restaurant and bar across Maine closed in mid-March as the pandemic set in, Joshua Moulton, owner of downtown Bangor gaming bar and eatery Queen City Cinema Club, closed along with them. Unlike most other places, however, he stayed closed until just last week, instead of reopening in June when other restaurants were allowed to.
That’s because Moulton and his business partners, wife Tiffany and Steven “Boss” Bosse, decided to take the opportunity to transform their two-year-old business into the entertainment destination they’d always dreamed of.
“It was kind of like, ‘Well, if we’re going to be closed, we might as well make the most of it,’” Moulton said. “We were already planning to do it, but when the pandemic happened, we had to take the opportunity we were unfortunately given.”
Over the course of the summer and fall, they nearly doubled the size of the place. They added in a full kitchen, and rented out an unused, adjacent 1000-square-foot room so they could transform it into a retro-themed arcade and gaming area, complete with pinball, bubble hockey, air hockey, ping pong and classic 1980s and 90s video games, like “Pac-Man,” “Tetris,” “Dig Dug” and the original “Die Hard” and Star Wars games.
The new arcade is lit in retro-futuristic black lights, and it still has traditional console games, including an old-school TV equipped to run everything from Nintendo 64 to Xbox. Though modern-day video games feature photo-realistic graphics and command massive computing power, retro classics have seen a resurgence in popularity, as people who grew up on Atari, Nintendo and Sega are now well into adulthood, and have fond childhood memories of hours playing “Sonic the Hedgehog” or “Street Fighter.”
Moulton and company knew that their business was going to expand — it was just a question of when.
“This had been the dream from day one, but when we first started, we just didn’t have the money,” said Moulton, who originally opened Queen City Cinema Club in summer 2018. “So we opened with what we had, which were movies, video game consoles, board games and some food. The food was totally a compromise, initially. Now it’s definitely not.”
The menu, developed by Tiffany Moulton, features what the couple calls “stoner chic.” Instead of neon orange nacho cheese on chips, there’s Mexican street corn nachos, loaded with toppings. Instead of Hot Pockets, there are paninis such as the “Son of the Godfather,” with mozzarella and parmesan, prosciutto and hot peppers, and a full homemade pizza menu. There are sliders, either classic burger style or vegan style, and there are tacos, made with pulled chicken or with fried green tomatoes.
Queen City Cinema Club also has a full bar now, with the same array of craft beers and ciders, plus a new cocktail menu.
The entertainment options that the place opened with remain, including hundreds of board games and two private movie theaters. And though special events like live music, comedy and other theme nights remain on hold until the pandemic is better under control, Moulton expects to bring those back as soon as he’s able.
“I learned a lot in our first two years. I didn’t know board games would be so popular. I didn’t think people would love events as much as they did,” he said. “But I always knew video games would be a hit. I grew up on Spaceport and Dream Machine at the mall. That kind of nostalgia is a huge thing.”
Queen City Cinema Club, located at 128B Main St. in downtown Bangor, is open from 4 p.m. to 11 p.m., Tuesdays-Thursdays, and noon to midnight, Fridays-Sundays. It presently has a 50-person capacity limit, and masks are required when not eating or drinking.