First and foremost, Flip Side is a pinball arcade. Machines line the walls, and their clatter echoes all night long. Mark Carvey found his first pinball machine on Craigslist in 2012, but his collection quickly grew. “One turns into two, and two turns into four,” says Mark. “And then, all of a sudden, you’ve got a warehouse full of them.”
Mark’s specialty is design lighting, and he co-owns The Carvey Group with his wife Dana. But possessing nearly 50 pinball machines made an arcade-bar seem like a practical idea. Mark didn’t have any service industry experience, but Dana had worked extensively in bars and restaurants. “I’ve been everything from a dishwasher to a front-of-house manager,” he says. “I was like, yeah, yeah, yeah, I can put a bar together.” Three years ago, Flip Side was born in downtown Westerly.
Flip Side is a really nice bar, and it’s well stocked. The craft beer menu represents breweries across New England, including Buttonwoods Brewery in Cranston and Grey Sail Brewing, which is headquartered just down the street. They also have a list of tempting signature cocktails, such as the Battlecry Painkiller (using Sons of Liberty Battlecry Whiskey) and the Dark & Stormier (with Thomas Tew Rum and Farmer Willie’s Alcoholic Ginger Beer) all made locally.
“To me, pinball has always been associated with playing at the bar,” says Mark. “They were usually not-great machines. They worked enough to have fun on. There’s always a better way to do the pinball side of things – and it’s the same way with beer. It doesn’t have to be a dive bar.”
Part of their inspiration came from North Star Pinball Bar in Montreal, which is operated by friends of the Carveys. “When we saw how they put their space together,” says Dana, “we were like, ‘This is what we’re talking about!’ Cool LED lights. Nice machines. It’s fantastic to see someone you’re so close to do it, and do it right. And we were like, ‘Now we’re going to do it.”
The Carveys also have a nice relationship with their Westerly neighbors, as well as friends and peers in southeastern Connecticut. The staff at Grey Sail helped them refine their tap system, and they have shared pinball machines with other venues. To develop their wine profile, they consulted with Wine Brothers in Pawtucket, and a friend helps select their beers.
Not surprisingly, Flip Side attracts an eclectic crowd. “I wish we could pigeonhole it,” says Mark. “We get the craft beer guy. We get the pinball guy, who’s not here to drink beer at all. And we get everything between.”
“It’s really fun when you get four people on one machine,” says Dana. “Grandma’s talking about how she used to play in Misquamicut, and the grandkids are like, ‘What? You were a pinball nerd?’ And they get excited, because they have that nostalgic feeling.”
1 Railroad Ave, Westerly • 302-1085