City Sues Under Pinball Law

Tries to Close Porter Square Arcade

The City of Cambridge is trying to dim the flashing lights at the Game Time pinball emporium at Porter Square.

The city has filed a lawsuit against the arcade for failing to meet licensing requirements, City Solicitor Russel Higley said yesterday.

"We are filing suit against Game Time because they have no building department license. They never applied for one," Higley said.

The licensing ordinance, passed last winter by the City Council, made pinball establishments subject to city regulation for the first time.

The ordinance requires that for each "automatic amusement device" a business must provide 500 square feet of floorspace and maintain 18" between machines.


Any establishment with machines that can accommodate 50 players also becomes a "place of public assembly" and is subject to more stringent fire regulations of the State Buildings code.

Under the ordinance, a pinball machine operator may be denied a license if the city can attribute the increased pedestrian traffic, excessive, noise or vandalism to the establishment.

"When I started I just wanted to open an arcade," Robert Marlow, owner of Game Time said yesterday. "The city is against us," he added.

The building code regulation applies to businesses with five or more machines. The city regards these as "arcades," Mary R. Calnan, chairman of the Cambridge Licensing Commission, said yesterday. The ordinance does not include the word "arcade."

"There is only one licensed arcade in Cambridge," Calnan said yesterday, "and that is 1001 Plays on Massachusetts Avenue."

Marlow refused to comment on whether or not his suit challenged the city's definition of an arcade. "I've said more about this suit than I should have. I'm going to hang myself," he said.

Game Time has filed a counter-suit against the city in an attempt to stay open. Marlow, said yesterday.

1001 Plays obtained a new license "around the first of the year," Arthur Dewberry, manager of the arcade, said yesterday. "We made the place larger and put more space between machines," he added.

"Why do you suppose the city is filing suit against one pinball business and not the other?" Marlow said. "I have no influence with this city," he added.

Marlow said, "there is a certain segment in Cambridge society that does not like pinball arcades." "It's not their cup of tea and they'd like to see my operation closed down," he added.

On the Street

Restaurants, such as Tommy's Lunch, are not subject to building code regulations. However, they must comply with the 500 square foot-per-machine requirement.

Pinball regulations "came up at the same time as the massage parlor question," Mary Ellen Preusser, city councilor and sponsor of the ordinance, said yesterday.

The City Council objected to "kids spending grocery money on pinball" and machines placed in "unattended storefronts," she added.

Preusser said that the City Council is interested in controlling the location of pinball arcades.