End of Good Times for Emporium

Piece by Piece, Popular Somerville Arcade Is Up for Auction

Good Time Emporium, the Assembly Square family fun center which combined the best and worst of a Chuck E. Cheese’s, an indoor Go Kart track, and a sports bar, but whose reputation was marred by a 2004 stabbing, a 2007 shooting, and a spring 2008 brawl, is closed and will not reopen. Many of the attraction’s attractions will be auctioned off in Brockton on Saturday.

“After 17+ years The Good Time Emporium was moving to this new location to open the largest Family Entertainment Center in the world! Due to last-minute developments, however, the move has been called off,” according to the flyer issued by announcing the sale.

Good Time left its Somerville location on June 30, 2008, when its landlord terminated its lease, according to the emporium’s Web site. The building is undergoing demolition and the space will be used for the trendy furniture store IKEA.

The emporium was a popular destination for MIT students and in recent years for rush events from fraternities including Phi Kappa Theta, Pi Lambda Phi, and Zeta Beta Tau.

Good Time was “a cool place” for food, drinks, laser tag, and games, said David J. Hutchings ’10, a ZBT member. It was “basically like a good time emporium,” just like the name said, and it had “everything you could ever want,” he said. “It was huge. I remember that.” Hutchings said ZBT learned of the closure in the fall when they tried to book it for a rush event.

“I liked Good Times because it was simple, cheap fun. It reminded me more of the arcades of my childhood than any of the pricier places. Sure, the carpets were a little grungy, and some of the balls on the skee-ball machines were old enough that they weren’t really spheres anymore, but I never minded,” Beth E. Baniszewski ’05 said in a zephyr interview. A friend once misplaced her purse and had it stolen, but other than that, Baniszewski said she didn’t see any of the crime sometimes associated with Assembly Square. “I’ll remember winning lots of tickets for the people whose birthdays we celebrated, and I’ll remember going there to flirt with friends while playing air hockey,” she said.

The Tech took a group in October 2007. A good time was had by all for about three hours. Good Time was clean but poorly lit, with dark carpets and a dank atmosphere. On a Saturday afternoon, the attendees generally seemed respectable.

At Good Time, a $6 laser tag ticket was probably not worth it — the experience lasted only about eight minutes and the arena was pretty small, although it could ostensibly hold about twenty people. Participants were indifferent to the experience.

The go-karts, on the other hand, provided a great value at $5 a ticket. Claims of racing possibilities or some kind of clock on the go-kart track made on Good Time’s Web site were patently false. But attendees enjoyed the high-speed karts, whose low center of gravity made an exciting experience. Breaking the track’s only rule — “do not bump other karts” — two staff reporters ganged up on a third, who was bumped around the track at high speeds. The “victim” said he enjoyed it anyway and ended up getting back at his opponents.

The arcade was large and well-apportioned, and many small prizes made their way back to the office. Of the five Good Time arcade tokens that went unused, two were actually Chuck E. Cheese’s tokens.

The “bowling” arcade game Bowlingo proved disappointingly unrealistic and cost eight tokens, far too many for the meager rewards. The Tech did not review the billiards, batting cages, the children’s Himalaya Ride, the basketball court, or the pizza party package (40 tokens, two slices of pizza, two sodas, and two rounds of bumper cars for $12).

The goods being auctioned in Brockton on Saturday include 32 go-karts and a complete track, a 28-player laser tag system, more than 150 different arcade games, “Skee Balls (9),” thousands of tables, chairs, and stools, a “PRO Nightclub with Recording Equipment,” 30 projectors, a 10-car bumper car system, and 45 pool tables. Current information about the auction is available online at

In its peak, Good Time was more than a family fun center: it also contained a full sports bar, frequented by Somerville residents and by parents while their kids were off having a birthday party at the amusement park. Good Time’s bar was, some said, a magnet for crime.

In March 2004, a Lynn resident was fatally stabbed in Good Time’s parking lot after the victim and his assailant had fought earlier outside Good Time. Manuel Spencer, 24, of Somerville, pled guilty to manslaughter and was sentenced to 10–12 years in state prison in Sept. 2008.

In April 2007, a man was shot to death at about 1:30 a.m. while driving home from Good Time Emporium, the Somerville News reported. The man’s friends drove him back to the emporium to seek help from police.

In March 2008, the Somerville News reported that police said they had broken up an Easter Sunday fight at Good Time among 150–200 people, some armed with baseball bats and knives, with “tables and chairs being thrown in every direction.” While police officers were arresting a 17-year-old for threatening another woman with a knife and fighting police, a crowd of 50–75 people surrounded the police, according to an incident report written by Somerville officer James McNally and obtained by the Somerville News. “[We] had to resort to swinging our expandable batons around to keep the crowd from physically coming at us,” McNally said in the report.

An anonymous commenter on the News’s website disputed the account, saying that “I was there and it was only about 4 people fighting.” Other commenters were less kind: “They should close this place down. It’s a magnet for drugs and other kinds of crime. We don’t need it in Somerville,” one wrote. Another wrote, “this place is a monument to drugs, gambling and violence. why wait for Ikea - tear it down right now.” “The place is nothing but trouble,” wrote a commenter identifying himself as “kev.”

A commenter identifying himself as Danny McLaughlin wrote “Just last week I attend a great fund raiser at Good times, sadly what I saw Sunday was anything but great. Although I couldn’t see much through the large crowd, it was a scary sight. I saw small children crying in their parent’s arms, people running from the scene, all types of people running to hide. I couldn’t believe my eye what a mad house this place had become.”