San Jose’s new downtown nightspot: MINIBOSS arcade and bar
By George Avalos | | Bay Area News Group PUBLISHED: February 6, 2019 at 9:45 am | UPDATED: February 7, 2019 at 7:51 am
SAN JOSE — Local entrepreneurs have breathed life into a long-shuttered building on a key corner of downtown San Jose, plunking down a bet that their new Miniboss bar and arcade is poised to become a hot new nightspot for the area.
Located at the former site of the long-closed Toons Piano Bar nightclub at 52 E. Santa Clara St. near Second Street, Miniboss has drawn its inspiration from Barcade in Manhattan, as well as similarly themed spots in San Francisco and Los Angeles, and combines old-school arcade games with a modern and hip cocktail lounge and walk-up meal service.
“We are very optimistic about the trajectory of downtown San Jose, so we are hopeful about this,” said one of the co-owners, Dan Phan.
Miniboss features old arcade machines, including a version of the legendary “Street Fighter” game, as well as a cocktail lounge on one side and a walk-up meal spot called Super Good Kitchen. The walls feature an array of art work, including bright murals from Local Color.
“We wanted to combine kitschy and cool,” said George Lahlouh, another co-owner. “It’s playful, colorful and lively, combined with great food and drinks.”
Phan said that, with partner Johnny Wang, he has been involved in downtown San Jose for several years. They became active a few years before plans emerged for two game-changing tech expansions in downtown San Jose. Wang is also a co-owner of Miniboss.
Google is planning a transit-oriented village of office buildings, homes, restaurants and shops near the Diridon train station where the search giant could employ 15,000 to 20,000.
San Jose-based Adobe intends to dramatically expand its three-building downtown headquarters campus with a fourth office tower where the cloud services giant would employ 4,000 people.
“Even before Google, there was a lot more activity downtown than prior years,” Phan said. “Google sent it to another realm.”
That heightened interest in the downtown extends to this specific building. In December, Foster City-based La Senda, a group of local realty investors, paid $13.95 million for the historic property, which is known as the Saratoga Capital Building.
The new Miniboss offers eight pinball machines and 32 arcade machines, Phan said. The name Miniboss is derived from the penultimate enemies that a video game player must defeat before attempting to beat the final boss whose demise bestows an ultimate victory on a player.
“That corner has been dark for years since Toons closed its doors,” said Scott Knies, executive director of the San Jose Downtown Association.“Your heart just soars seeing the lights on and seeing a room full of people inside.”
Around 2012, Phan and Wang opened Original Gravity Public House a couple of blocks away at 66 S. First St. and then in 2014, they launched Paper Plane at 72 S. First St. Lahlouh also has been part of the group’s expanding nightlife empire in downtown San Jose.
“These three are veteran downtown operators. This is their third downtown business,” Knies said. “They know the market. They know what they are doing. I would not be surprised to see it full every night.” Referring to the nearby offices of co-working giant WeWork, Knies added, “Miniboss will be WeWork’s neighborhood bar.”
Miniboss staged a soft launch this week, including Tuesday night. The official opening is slated for Thursday. That will include dinner service from the kitchen. In about a month, Miniboss intends to offer lunch.
“We want to help bring this part of downtown to life,” Lahlouh said. “Miniboss has been well-received so far. We really want to activate this block.”