Strange Matter materializes

The folks at 929 W. Grace Street are aiming to serve up what some Richmonders are sure to love: vegan/vegetarian options, arcade games, and (hopefully soon) a home for punk, hardcore, and metal shows.

Since the 1970s, 929 W. Grace Street has been an important part of the RVA music scene. Twisters, the Nanci Raygun and Bagel Czar (just to name a few) have all been part of bringing punk, hardcore and metal shows to the location over the years.

In December, Strange Matter became the newest edition to a long list of businesses that have called the site home and is now open for business.


Retro arcade games, a full restaurant menu, and DIY atmosphere are all the stuff of Strange Matter.

Co-owners Jennifer Ward, Bobby Pembleton and John Downing have not made any structural changes to the building but have been working on fixing it up. With the help of local artist Marshall Higgins and other friends, the owners have given the interior and exterior a face-lift.

Ward said having shows will hopefully occur in the not too distant future. But for now, plans are delayed because of city ordinance issues.

“In the interim between the Raygun and [Strange Matter], the fire code changed due to the Great White debacle in New Hampshire where patrons died when pyrotechnics set a venue on fire,” Ward stated in an email. “We either have to overhaul the building with a sprinkler system or we have to accept a capacity so low that it’s counter-intuitive for promoters’ jobs – as in, hey, promote the hell out of this show, but not too hard, because we can only fit this many on our dance floor.”


Although Strange Matter’s nightclub zoning permit, which would allow them to put on shows, is still pending, Ward said management is staying positive. She said with luck, Strange Matter will be able to install a sprinkler system during the summer which will then facilitate a nightclub permit.

In the mean time, she said the management is looking to host creative community events including film screenings and workshops. They have also applied for a beer and wine license from Alcohol Beverage Control.

The City of Richmond Department of Community Development website states “to promote orderly development, every parcel within the City has a zoning designation that governs its use.”

Zoning approvals, building permits, occupancy permits, health permits, ABC permits, and sign permits must be obtained to even receive a business license. All of the above depend on the type of business and can be complicated for inexperienced entrepreneurs.

“Everyone has been really supportive so far. I was kind of afraid that if we opened without shows, the community would lose faith in us,” Ward stated. “Instead, they just commiserate and wish us luck.”

As far as what arcade games they have available, here’s what you can now play at Strange Matter for just 25 cents a pop:

  • Altered Beast
  • Bad Dudes vs. Dragon Ninja
  • Battle Shark
  • Golden Axe
  • Lethal Enforcers
  • Mario Bros.
  • Mortal Kombat 2
  • Ninja Gaiden
  • Smash TV
  • Space Invaders
  • Street Fighter II
  • WWF Superstars

You can take a look at their menu here and here. Keep an eye out for updates as the culinary team (Erin Suiter, Ron Rogers, and Trey Kautz) tweak the details. For all information including upcoming events and menu updates/specials, visit Strange Matter on Facebook or their website. You can also check them out on our Eats directory.

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Marge Weimer

Marge Weimer had the distinct honor of being’s first intern. She is a good sport, and we thoroughly enjoy her.

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