The Quarters in Hadley embraces Pokemon Go

  • Right, a player battles in a “gym” in the Pokemon Go iPhone game. Players can access gyms in the game based on their proximity to real-world locations, such as The Quarters in Hadley. Below, Joseph and Brianna Heroux of Chicopee play Mortal Combat II at The Quarters.The restaurant-bar-arcade has used its status as a gym to bring in customers.

  • Lisa Weremeichik helps her daughters, Phoebe and Veronica Chapman,2 all of Northampton play Space Invaders at Quarters in Hadley. CAROL LOLLIS—Gazette Staff/Carol Lollis

  • Quarters in Hadley. CAROL LOLLIS—Gazette Staff/Carol Lollis

  • This screen grab provided by Niantic, Inc. shows the "Pokemon Go" smartphone game. The game's appeal stems partly from how easy it is to play. (Niantic, Inc. via AP)

  • Amanda Winslow , and her friend Heather Reese, both of Ludlow, took some time while doing errands to play Pokemon Go in Northampton on Old South Street Monday afternoon.

  • Stella Li, 21, of Northmpton, plays Pokemon Go in Northampton earlier this month. GAZETTE STAFF/CAROL LOLLIS

Monday, August 01, 2016

HADLEY – A trainer named TheTiltedPanda reigned over The Quarters restaurant early Thursday afternoon with the assistance of a Vileplume, a poisonous flower Pokemon.

Inside, paper lantern-inspired Pokeballs dangled from light fixtures over the bar, and balloons adorned with images of Pikachu and Meowth floated in the corner, remnants of Wednesday’s Pokemon theme night. The restaurant-bar-arcade on Railroad Street now doubles as a “gym,” a spot where players of the Pokemon Go mobile game can battle their virtual creatures and control territory. And though The Quarters played no role in its designation as a gym, it – like other area businesses – has used the game’s popularity to bring in customers.

“The Pokemon (game) is obviously part of this very significant cultural zeitgeist, so we did this (night),” Quarters co-owner George Myers said. “It just took off and had a momentum and a life of its own.”

Myers didn’t know about the game or The Quarters’ designation as a gym until his bartenders started texting him about it, he said. Once he and co-owner Greg Stutsman realized how popular the game was, they decided to embrace it.

The Quarters’ Facebook post alerting fans to its gym status got nearly 500 likes and was shared 23 times. The restaurant does theme nights regularly, Myers said, and the Pokemon one was particularly successful, drawing people ranging widely in race and age, interests and appearance – from bikers to people dressed in Pikachu costumes.

“If you lined them all up in a row, your ability to pick out the common denominator – you’d never get it,” he said.

And though some Pokemon Go gyms are visited by players who park outside and sit in their cars while they play, Myers said players who come to The Quarters usually spend time in the restaurant.

“There’s a certain element of Pokemon Go that we’re a natural fit for,” he said. “People can come here and know that they won’t be judged for it and that we’ll celebrate it.”

Sign contest

Meanwhile, in downtown Northampton, Sweeties Fine Chocolate & Confections at 68 Main St. launched a contest in June, before the game came out, for customers to submit hand-made signs to label its candy. After Pokemon Go was released, the store decorated the area of its front window around the competition notice with signs featuring Pokemon and encouraged people to enter the contest with Pokemon signs.

“I grew up with Pokemon, so I thought it’d be a good idea to let people know if they submit Pokemon-themed signs, we’d be into that,” assistant manager Erica Campbell said.

The signs in the storefront have caught the attention of potential customers.

“I would say there have been more people in the store since Pokemon Go has happened,” she said.

Police attention

In a few cases, Pokemon Go has also brought attention by police. As of Thursday, Northampton Police had recorded nine Pokemon Go-related incidents.

Six of those were suspicious activity calls in the early morning that turned out to be people playing the game at places like the Lilly Library on Meadow Street in Florence, and Memorial Hall on Main Street.

Police issued one written warning, on July 15, to a person who was playing the game while driving, and Tuesday, officers helped two out-of-towners who got lost while playing. The records also include one case of community policing, where an officer “assisted with Pokemon gym takeover at Northampton Lumber.”

Amherst Police responded to a suspicious activity call on July 14 at Immanuel Lutheran Church, which also turned out to be Pokemon Go players.

Northampton Police Capt. John Cartledge said he’s heard of other areas having problems with players trespassing on personal property, but Northampton police have not seen any of that.

“We don’t want people driving and playing it, and to pay attention when they’re walking and playing it,” he said.

Back at The Quarters, Myers is happy to provide a gym where people can play Pokemon Go and socialize without other worries. On Wednesday night, he said, the people who packed the place didn’t gravitate toward the restaurant’s arcade games – instead, they crammed around tables to talk and play on their phones.

“Something we’re seeing is a great number of people with diverse backgrounds and interests finding a place that’s welcoming to them,” he said.