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Divis' Long-Vacant Harding Theater May Become an Arcade Bar

With movie screenings and food trucks.

Harding Theater
Harding Theater
Mark Gaworecki/Hoodline

The long-vacant historic landmark that was once the Harding Theater may once again come to life on Divisadero. Hoodline reports that plans are in the works to convert the once-majestic theater into an arcade-style bar, with classic arcade and pinball games, video games, pool, air hockey, and foosball. The concept comes from entrepreneur brothers Danny and Doug Marks, who currently own two similar establishments under the name Emporium in Chicago. (Here's what the interior of the newest outpost, in Logan Square, looks like.) The plan would also allow for a 20-foot screen showing indie films, sports events and other offbeat video features; there wouldn't be traditional theater-style seating, but bar patrons would be able to come and catch a flick.

The Harding, originally a gorgeous, Art Deco-style movie theater, was built in 1926. It was eventually converted into a live performance space, hosting acts like the Grateful Dead and other notable bands through the years. Its most recent chapter was as a church, but it's been vacant since 2004, occupying prime real estate in the increasingly vibrant Divis corridor. Owner Michael Klestoff has previously attempted to turn the building and its neighboring vacant lot into condos, but was shot down by community backlash; the bar plan may end up being the perfect compromise.

Though the project won't have a restaurant, the Marks brothers also hope to bring local food vendors in on the action (possibly in the form of food trucks), as well as live music and collaborations with local breweries. The deal is not a sure thing, but all the parties appear confident that a lease will be signed soon. Stay tuned for more details about what Danny Marks describes as "a 360-degree fun time."

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