Emporium, a popular arcade bar and venue with three locations in Chicago, is giving an extra life to the historic Harding Theater on Divisadero. The palatial, 12,000-square-foot space, which opened in 1926 and once hosted concerts by the Grateful Dead, has been empty for the better part of two decades. But after years of repairs and buildout, the Harding will once again get buzzing — and whirring, beeping, and blinking — starting tonight.
Emporium proprietors Danny and Doug Marks restored historic elements of the theater, like its intricate molding and ceiling, while removing other aspects, such as dilapidated seats. They leveled off the sloped balcony area, creating discrete, flat upper deck areas. The result is a sprawling bar (or two bars, one upstairs and one down) and gaming hall that’s spread across four floors and a curved balcony. It’s the third such arcade bar in San Francisco, joining Brewcade in the Castro and Coin-Op in SoMa.
Emporium holds more than 50 arcade games and pinball machines, plus traditional tabletop games like pool, foosball, skee-ball, and air hockey. With the theater setup still in place, it will also host live music and DJ events, plus movie nights courtesy of three large projector screens. Take a look inside: “Soft-opening” hours are from 6 p.m. to 2 a.m. Friday and Saturday and 2 p.m. to 2 a.m. Sunday, with more regular hours and grand opening events to come.