Monday, April 19

Mall Entertainment Venues Struggling Through Pandemic


When you’re five years old, it’s hard to top a day at the arcade. When Lisa Wallace brought her son Bryce to Apex Entertainment recently, she says it was their first activity out of the house in months.

“I’m so happy that we can be here, and that there’s something a little bit normal for our kids out there,” said Wallace, who lives in Broadalbin.


What You Need To Know

  • The Chief Operating Officer of Apex Entertainment says business is down roughly 75 percent compared to last year
  • The entertainment venue opened inside Crossgates Mall a few months before the pandemic began
  • The bar manager of The Standard says the smaller crowds at the mall’s entertainment venues have impacted their business as well

Chase Salisbury and Alyanna Rodriguez also thought the venue in Crossgates Mall was a great spot for an afternoon of entertainment.

“It was very interesting, very amusing,” Rodriguez said.

“We thought it would be nice to play some games,” Salisbury said. “We haven’t been to the mall in quite a while during quarantine.”

As much fun as they were all having, each said it was hard to ignore the obvious: There weren’t a whole lot of other people around.

“It looks like a ghost town, like it’s already dead,” Rodriguez said of the mall.

“It was kind of sad to pull in here, actually,” Wallace said. “There are no cars out in the parking lot; there are not a lot of people around.”

Marcus Kemblowski is the chief operating officer at Apex Entertainment, which opened its Crossgates location last winter right before the pandemic.

“It’s the best job in the world,” said Kemblowski, who oversees the company’s four facilities from its home base in Massachusetts. “You come into work and you have all of this to play with, it truly is a great experience and we all love working here.”

Since Apex re-opened in September, he says things haven’t been quite as great.

“The last eight months have honestly been flat-out brutal; that’s the really only way to describe it,” Kemblowski said.

The Crossgates location is one of Apex’s two facilities inside a mall in Upstate New York. Kemblowski says business is down close to 75 percent, forcing managers to lay off staff and reduce the number of days and hours they’re open.

“We’re typically open seven days a week, and right now at this location, we are only open four days,” Kemblowski said. “The business just doesn’t warrant it.”

Apex is hardly the mall’s only entertainment venue that’s struggling. Dave and Busters and The Funny Bone have remained closed since the March shutdown, and Regal Cinemas announced last week that all of the company’s New York theaters would indefinitely close again because of the rise in COVID-19 cases.

“It’s kind of almost creepy, almost like something you’d see in a movie, like ‘what happened to all the people?’ ” Kemblowski said.

Bar manager Brandi Cockfield has worked at The Standard since the bar and restaurant opened at Crossgates 12 years ago.

“This is my life; this is what I do,” said Cockfield, a native of Colonie. “I couldn’t picture doing anything else.”

The longtime bartender says The Standard relies on the crowds the mall’s entertainment venues bring in.

“That can generate 30 percent of our business for us,” Cockfield said. “Before COVID, they used to come in and have dinner, go see their comedy show, and then after the comedy show, they would come in for a drink and get a little bite to eat. We miss that.”

Already facing tough times, Kemblowski and Cockfield say the possibility of a second shutdown has them fearing the worst.

“It’s the stuff that keeps you up late at night,” Kemblowski said. “What happens if we have to do this again? Because it is going to be very difficult to come out of.”

“I’m hoping we don’t end up like the old Northway Mall or the ghost town mall or whatever it was, Latham Circle Mall. I hope it doesn’t turn into that,” Cockfield said.

The potential dire outcome is equally dubious to the customers who say they love coming to the mall’s restaurants and entertainment venues.

“I think it’s very sad, especially for our small businesses and our big businesses,” Wallace said. “I’m trying to support them as much as I can.”

“It’s sad to see that some places might go out of business and not be around ever again. I think it’s terrible,” Salisbury said.



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