Chuck E. Cheese’s head and skeleton social distancing, reopening The 4th Horseman

The closure of beloved child casino Chuck E. Cheese in the downtown retail space, The Streets, brought about some emotional responses, but the owners of horrorcore pizzeria, The 4th Horseman, saw an opportunity.

“Workers were taking everything down and just tossing it in the trash, and they let us have him,” said co-owner Martin Svab about acquiring the head of one Charles Entertainment Cheese. “I wanted the larger one—we’re talking, like, around 6 feet wide—but there was no way for me to transport it. I’m happy with what we got, though. The rat going up in our bar is definitely a highlight for our collection.”

Even skeletons practice social distancing in The 4th Horseman in Downtown Long Beach. Taken on June 19, 2020. Photo by Brian Addison.

That collection of old comic and horror movie posters—fact for the unknown: Svab has an impressive VHS horror collection that ought to be in a museum—are paired with taxidermied animals, doll heads, paintings and old-school arcade game consoles, will be on display Friday as the restaurant and the adjoining Dark Arts Emporium gallery reopen—that’s the plan, anyhow.

While the collection and Mr. Cheese’s head exemplify the space’s dark art-meets-food vibe, a veritable, and quite literal, skeleton crew will promote social distancing when customers come back. Skeleton patrons, in varying degrees of dress, will be seated at tables that are off-limits to patrons—the stack of bones a tongue-in-cheek, albeit macabre reminder of the present public health situation.

“Reopening isn’t necessarily easy for us,” co-owner Ryan Hughes said. “We’re still in a pandemic and the choice to reopen has been a really heavy weight. But we also know and trust our patrons. We know they will respect not just protocol in general but the rules we’ve set up to assure that our employees’ health and their health aren’t put at risk.”

You can’t sit with these mean girls at The 4th Horseman in Downtown Long Beach. Taken on June 19, 2020. Photo by Brian Addison.

COVID has presented both frustration and potential for the space. The Dark Art Emporium—owned by Horseman co-owner Jeremy Schott and managed by Jeremy Cross—left its previous home at the southeast corner of Third Street and Elm Avenue to move into a space connected to the Horseman via a walkway in the back.

Their opening reception welcomed hundreds of art buyers, onlookers, and longtime patrons on March 14, showcasing the gallery-speakeasy-social space—all just days before stay-at-home orders effectively shut down any business that was deemed nonessential, included art spaces.

The “Pizza Box Art Show,” part of the Dark Art Emporium inside The 4th Horseman, allows passersby to view art while practicing social distancing. Photo by Jeremy Cross.

While the Emporium has sustained its business through online orders—in part, because of an exceptional virtual gallery, Schott and Cross wanted to find a way to better involve the community and figured the best way was to think outside the box. Well, actually into a box; a discarded pizza box.

“We will be displaying works from 12 local artists, painted on pizza boxes and displayed in the windows of The 4th Horseman [facing Fourth Street],” Schott said. “All purchases are contactless and conducted via a QR code that also hangs in the window so you can both view and buy the art without touching anything. The sales of all works will be split evenly between the artist and the LBAC COVID-19 Relief Fund.”

Artists hanging at Dark Art through June 27, include:

  • Knox Farrand
  • Jinx
  • Jeremy Cross
  • Stella Stardust
  • DFame
  • Jess Nugent
  • Harley
  • Dominique C. Bell
  • Shaina Turian
  • Christian Panic
  • Larry Talavera
  • Stephanie Han

The 4th Horseman is located at 121 W. 4th Street.

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Brian Addison has been a writer, editor, and photographer for more than a decade, covering everything from food and culture to transportation and housing. In 2015, he was named Journalist of the Year by the Los Angeles Press Club and has since garnered 16 nominations and two additional wins for Best Political Commentary for his work at KCET and Best Blog for Longbeachize, a section of the Long Beach Post. Brian currently serves as a columnist and editor for the Long Beach Post.