Transport back to those carefree days of youth, as the alluring lights of the arcade beckoned giant stuffed animals that were only a skeeball high-score away. Somewhere along the way, we seem to lose our childhood innocence, which often leads to a drastic reevaluation of what it means to have fun. Still, somewhere deep inside everyone can become a beaming child with a cupful of tokens and a handful of prize-redeeming tickets at Five Star Tavern.
Adrian Varnam, Five Star’s proprietor, has tapped into the lingering presence of youth. A bartender since he was 21, in both New York and North Carolina, he upstarted the Wilmington skeeball league “Brewskee-Ball” seven years ago at Blue Post Billiards. He subsequently moved the league to Five Star when he opened it in September of 2011. A big kid himself, Varnam recently expanded the games element at Five Star to include grown-up birthday parties, a la Chuck E. Cheese. Rooted in nostalgia, the parties take the celebration of youth to the next level.
“We all have memories of playing skeeball on the boardwalk of some beach town as a kid, at amusement parks or Chuck E. Cheese,” Varnam expresses. “Not a day goes by that someone doesn’t walk by our bar, look in and say loudly, ‘Oh, wow—they have skee-ball!’ We all associate this wonderful game with a simpler and more innocent time in our lives—a time filled with summers, birthday parties and fun. And that’s what both our skeeball league and grown-up birthday parties provide: opportunities to have fun and share memories with friends and family. Only this time you’re old enough to drink.”
Since they’ve begun scheduling grown-up birthday parties, the books have been filling up quickly. Skee-ball and other games always have been a mainstay at Five Star, but without party reservations, they are only free on Sundays and during their skeeball-themed Rolling Trivia on Thursdays. Currently, the parties are completely free to book—with no hidden charges. Five Star even will allow all-you-can-throw skeeball. They simply ask people to make sure to frequent the bar.
“The response from every event we’ve hosted has been phenomenal,” Varnam details. “We have such a beautiful, well-designed, and simple space that feels so comfortable for people of all backgrounds and tastes. Throw in my great staff who take good care of everyone, too, and we have very happy people leaving our bar with a night that is both unique and a lot of fun.”
Five Star’s grown-up birthday of course comes with skeeball but pinball also. They offer five-hole cornhole, a fusion of cornhole and skeebal, as well as darts and a multigame classic arcade. Plus, they provide a slew of card games—from Apples to Apples to Cards Against Humanity and even Uno.
“I love our selection of board games,” Varnam says, which features Jenga and bar-top shuffle board. “Pinball, too, is always a go-to for a kid like me who grew up in the ’80s. But it’s the skeeball that is always my favorite. It’s the reason I bought this bar; it’s the glue that connects all of us in our competitive skeeball league, and it’s really the ‘bread-and-butter’ of our operation.”
Prizes come with the grown-up birthday package, too: T-shirts, koozies, glassware, pins, keychains, and other items are up for grabs. Folks can rent the place out any day of the week by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org or calling (910) 762-1533.
“Chuck E. Cheese’s famous motto is: ‘Where a kid can be a kid,'” Varnam says. “I’d like for people to think of Five Star Tavern as the place where an adult can be a kid. . . . I want to provide the carefree nature of youthfulness with the fun, grown-up atmosphere of a bar. Let us do the heavy-lifting; you just have a good time. We’ll even clean up after you.”
Grown-Up Birthday Parties
Five Star Tavern, 106 North 2nd St.