The #Artmore Makes a Playdate with #JoystickGamebar

On a windy, Wednesday afternoon in Atlanta’s ever-evolving Old Fourth Ward, The Artmore was invited to have a chat with longtime friends, Johnny Martinez and Brandon Ley, co-owners of the retro hotspot, Joystick Gamebar. Walking past an array of classic arcade machines, including Centipede, Galaga, and the immortal Ms. Pacman, we headed towards a cozy couch in the back room and sat in front of a wooden table, piled high with board games ranging from Monopoly to “My Little Pony” Memory. The excitement of being able to relive childhood pastimes did not overpower the ultra-chill environment that surrounded us. Brandon described the motivation behind the bar’s laid back atmosphere.


“We wanted this to be a place where people could come to relax and feel like they were in a friend’s basement” he explained.

Game lovers lounging out

Joystick started off as a simple idea that came to fruition when Brandon and Johnny decided to open an arcade after visiting similar concepts in various states. Johnny also insists that the bar was, in part, an attempt by Brandon to improve his dating life, which he jokingly admits has not yet happened.


Located inside of a historic, brick building that miraculously survived the Great Atlanta Fire of 1917, Joystick is home to classic arcade games from the 70’s, 80’s and 90’s, a full bar, complete with eclectic spirits, and tantalizing burgers served up by Illegal Food (don’t be fooled by the name, the food is perfectly legal. Check them out on Facebook.)

Johnny & Brandon (center) mingle with guests at a Halloween bash

While providing an entertaining experience for their guests is the duo’s primary objective, Brandon and Johnny also make sure to use the unifying power of video games to give back to the environment and community. Joystick is a LEED Certified green space and has participated in fundraisers for Susan G. Koman, Big Bethel Saturday School, and Living Walls, making them not only a hip spot to grab a brew and drop a few quarters, but a unifying staple in the Old Fourth Ward business community.


“The games are universal, there isn’t just one demographic that plays video games. We are one of the most integrated bars on one of the most integrated streets in Atlanta, and that’s what makes this rewarding.”

“Joystick is one of the most integrated bars in Atlanta.”~Johnny

Guests staying in The Artmore can visit Joystick via MARTA by catching the southbound train at Arts Center Station to Five Points Station and then riding the eastbound train to King Memorial Station. Joystick is approximately a 10-15 minute walk from King Memorial.


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