Last week officers from the Georgia Department of Revenue showed up at the Plaza Theatre in Atlanta and seized eight of the establishment's vintage arcade games because for "vending law violations." Seized doesn't mean taking physical possession of the machines; instead the machines were unplugged and tagged with bright red violation stickers.
The arcade machines were lacking stickers showing that permit fees had been paid. Plaza owner Jonathan Rej puts it a little more bluntly: "You've got to give the government its cut." Rej claims that there was some confusion on who was supposed to pay the permit fees. He thought that the vending company that owns the machine paid its share of the fees. Rej acknowledges that the required tax stickers weren't present and that the Plaza certainly hadn't paid any of the fees it owes to the state, as the venue where the games are located.
"I'm not trying to say this is a huge injustice or that I'm outraged," Rej says. "It kind of makes sense that there would be some kind of permit fee, but we just didn't know about it."
The annual fees for an old video game machine aren't particularly expensive (around $25), but since the machine only earns about $200 a year and spends a lot of time out of order, Rej isn't sure the games are worth keeping. Sadly the Plaza was the only place interested in giving the machines a home.
"Nobody else wants these old games," says Rej. "All the sports bars want Golden Tee or Big Buck Hunter."
The Plaza had brought in several of the machines months ago to join the familiar game machines like Ms. Pac-Man, Galaga and Defender games.
"I'd wanted to turn the room into a full-on '80s video arcade with black lights," he says. "It's not a big money-maker, but my goal was to cultivate a cool vibe."
Rej still hopes to keep two or three of the older machines, but needs to make arrangements with the vendor at this point. But the worst part of the story is that some jerk apparently dropped a dime on The Plaza to the government. The Plaza is a non-profit arts charity and one that struggles from month to month to pay the bills even as it is hosting numerous screenings, film festivals, movie-related events and new releases.