Get ready, moms and dads. Chuck E. Cheese's coin-operated games, rides, videos, mechanical animals, plastic ball pools and pizza are coming to Back River, and very soon.
The new restaurant is to open Aug. 6 in the Diamond Point Plaza shopping center in the 8300 block of Eastern Ave., just across Back River from Essex. It has cost $800,000 to outfit, said Alice Winters, an official of ShowBiz Pizza Time Inc., the national chain that operates Chuck E. Cheese's restaurants from headquarters Texas.
The local entrant -- a combination pizza parlor-arcade-theater that targets the 3- to 10-year-old set like a laser-guided "smart bomb" -- is already looking for about 100 part-time workers. Besides the food, rides and arcade games, life-size mechanical robot characters perform shows for the kids.
Just you other Baltimore County parents wait, because next fall Chuck E. Cheese's is going to open another restaurant in Westview Mall, and still another later, probably in the central part the county. Only one Chuck E. Cheese's is in the Baltimore area now, in Glen Burnie, next to the state Motor Vehicle Administration headquarters on Ritchie Highway.
Diamond Point Plaza seemed like a good place to open because the chain's demographic studies show a lot of young families with children under 9 years old in eastern Baltimore County, Winters said. Also, the drawing power of two large discounters already in the center, Pace and Ames, will bring people from farther away, she said.
The restaurant was awarded a new county liquor license recently, so adults can order beer or wine with their food. Although alcohol sales in the chain's 150 restaurants nationwide account for only 5 percent of sales, 25 to 30 percent of customers ask for beer or wine, Winters said.
David Mister, attorney for the Baltimore County Licensed Beverage Association, opposed granting the license on grounds that none of the three licensees would have any role in day-to-day operations of the restaurant, because Winters lives in Texas; Elise Anne Gerard, another licensee, lives in Virginia and is district manager for the chain; and Michael Dorrance Mesch, the Baltimore County resident on the license, is merely the real estate broker in the deal and has only $50 invested in the business.
The license was granted despite these objections.
Steven Burgess, of Joppa in Harford County, will be manager of the new restaurant, moving from the Glen Burnie outlet. The chain has leased a 9,000-square-foot space for its operation, which offers cooked-to-order pizzas, a salad bar and some sandwiches and bread sticks, which are not "fast food," according to the chain's attorney and Winters.
The idea is to have it take a while to serve the food, so the children have plenty of time to work up appetites jumping in a pit of plastic balls -- and time to drop some of mommy's and daddy's money on the coin-operated rides.