Jan 20, 2023 - Things to Do

Nashville's No Quarter to host state pinball finals

Pinball machines at No Quarter

Photo: Courtesy of No Quarter

No Quarter, a small neighborhood bar in East Nashville, has emerged as a hub of the area's emerging competitive pinball scene.

State of play: No Quarter hosts weekly tournaments with players using approximately two dozen machines. The bar enjoyed its largest crowd ever when 50 players competed in a tournament earlier this week.

Driving the news: The bar will host the most important competition in its history this weekend when it will be the site of the state competitive pinball tournament.

Flashback: Owner Seth Steele became a pinball bar owner organically. Steele, who works in tech, was really into pinball machines, especially fixing up broken ones. Over time, he accumulated enough high-quality machines that he began to consider what to do with them.

The big picture: On tournament nights, you can see and hear how Steele's vision for No Quarter has come to life.

  • The machines he repaired by hand are chiming. The bar area is buzzing with onlookers, and the jukebox is belting out an indie rock favorite. He says this week's crowd was already talking about the big state finals on Saturday.

Zoom out: The popularity of pinball has grown exponentially in recent years, Steele says, leading to competition on the same block.

  • "When we were opening it there was no pinball," he says. "Headquarters just opened downtown. Now there's five places. … [National chain] Up-Down opened right around the corner."

Zoom in: No Quarter is more than just pinball. Another one of Steele's self-described nerdy interests is beer. He has cultivated relationships with Nashville breweries and keeps a rotation of local beers on tap.

  • He says competitive players, typically in their 30s and 40s, may have a beer during regular weekly tournaments. But there's too much on the line Saturday for players to imbibe. He expects a decent sized crowd eager to root on the Nashville competitors.
  • More women are competing in pinball tournaments in recent years — the women's finals will be on Sunday.

Teenagers are also an emerging fan base.

  • "We have 14-year-olds whose parents got them into it, coming in and kicking butt," Steel says.
  • Some of the best players are from Memphis, continuing Tennessee's proud tradition of Nashville and the Bluff City competing in just about everything. Next year, Steele is even considering livestreaming the tournament.

If you go: The state tournament begins at 1pm Saturday. The smashburger and hot chicken food truck Brave Idiot will be on hand.


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