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Help support X-Ray Arcade during the pandemic here.
Ten people with a history in Milwaukee and Chicago's DIY punk scene joined forces and opened X-Ray Arcade – a bar, venue and video game hub at 5036 S. Packard Ave. – in February of 2019.
"We wanted to open a place that could host music like ours for a long time," says Nick Woods, one of the owners. "Something a little larger than Cactus Club but not quite Turner Hall."
X-Ray Arcade hosts primarily indie bands, but is also a vibrant community space with monthly hot yoga classes, private parties, wedding and baby showers, a Sunday night open mic and more.
"It's for anybody who needs a space and doesn't want to deal with the usual rigmarole of a moneymaking enterprise is welcome here," says Woods, who started booking bands when he was 14 and is a longtime member of punk band Direct Hit. "This is a good place for people who want to learn to make music on stage."
X-Ray Arcade also offers video game hookups at the bar and a slew of classic video games including The Simpsons, Area 51, House of the Dead and a handful of others. "We have all the good ones," says Woods.
Woods says that offering the arcade aspect was important to him because he always enjoyed playing video games during his downtime while on tour.
"Touring and being a part of the Milwaukee punk scene have been the most formative experiences of my life," says Woods. "So a big part is making this a fun place for touring musicians."
X-Ray offers a full bar and a small menu with fun items like dinosaur-shaped nuggets and fried avocados. Rail cocktails, craft beers and $3 tall boy cans of Hamm's are the biggest sellers at the bar. Specials are available every night of the week.
The decor features black walls adorned with neon art along with white-outline mural drawings of skulls and such by Milwaukee artist Sarah Luther. There's also a huge monster with exposed brains and lightning bolts mural above the stage that was created by a German artist.
The 10 owners are 100 percent volunteer and there are a few paid staff members who work the bar and kitchen. "The intent was never to make money," says Woods. "We wanted to create a place we could all be proud of and to pay back some of what we got when we were younger from the DIY scene."
Nick Woods showing off his X-Ray Arcade logo finger tattoo (and wedding band, of course).
Like all Milwaukee bars and restaurants, X-Ray Arcade is currently closed due to COVID-19. The reopening date is TBA at this point. Show your support of the venue and its employees here.
Molly Snyder started writing and publishing her work at the age 10, when her community newspaper printed her poem, "The Unicorn.” Since then, she's expanded beyond the subject of mythical creatures and written in many different mediums but, nearest and dearest to her heart, thousands of articles for OnMilwaukee.
Molly is a regular contributor to FOX6 News and numerous radio stations as well as the co-host of "Dandelions: A Podcast For Women.” She's received five Milwaukee Press Club Awards, served as the Pfister Narrator and is the Wisconsin State Fair’s Celebrity Cream Puff Eating Champion of 2019.