Ken Goldberg Takes Emerson Amusements into the Future

Ken Goldberg with Billy Joel
Ken Goldberg with Billy Joel

The New Year will mark the 80th anniversary of Queens-based second generation market leading company Emerson Amusements., run by Hamptons and New York City resident Ken Goldberg.

From the time he was a youngster, Goldberg, the son of the founder, was taught how to operate and how to present jukebox music and games by his father. Goldberg has never been afraid to take on industry challenges, often imposed by government, and successfully overcome them with solutions.

Emerson Amusements and Goldberg have emerged to become what is considered the largest greater New York Metro area vendor for jukebox music, games and independent ATM machines in bars, taverns, clubs, entertainment centers and food establishments.

In New York State, there are presently some 18,000 on-premises locations licensed by the State Liquor Authority, most of which have suffered in the past 18 months due to COVID. Goldberg believes “bars, taverns and clubs combined with restaurants, special events centers and leisure facilities are trying to make a comeback. A number of these establishments received some government assistance. However, often government agencies suffocate economic development instead of encouraging this sector’s vitality. Government agencies like the building department, the health department, or the liquor authority need to be less myopic and insensitive, playing gotcha.

“If the business owners in this sector have issues, these agencies need to be constructive in facilitating solutions,” he continues. “Anyone can see how many vacant properties and empty storefronts have caused negative vibes and decay in many New York City neighborhoods. Government needs to work with these businesses so they can flourish. This renewed prosperity will translate into more tax revenues, more employment/vendor opportunities, and more nightlife vitality for NYC.”

Goldberg’s equipment and services function as the heartbeat of these establishments. His company is able to apply his decades of experience to a bar/tavern/club/entertainment center operation. He understands what amusement games, what jukebox music or what ATM services will become effective for a location to generate use, to provide an extra purpose for the customer to spend time and money at the premises, and to bring revenue to both Emerson Amusements and the location owner. This may take the form of a pool table, shuffle board,  Skee-Ball or a Buck Hunter game.

“There is an abundance of exciting, intriguing games in 2021, which people of all ages and skill sets love to play,” he says.

Goldberg and Emerson have an excellent, honored reputation among distributors and manufacturers who source these amusements. For a number of years, he has been proactive in creating leagues for different amusements.

“The leagues promote excitement, competition and greater interest surrounding a particular game. Customers connected to leagues increase the consistency where they visit a certain location as a participant of a league,” he says. “With music, the jukebox, which has been a venerable institution for nearly 150 years, has survived the test of time for its role in most of my locations. Today’s jukebox is nothing like years ago. Providing tens of thousands of music artists and selections, with high quality audio and interesting photos, graphics and video, the jukebox is an entertainment center unto itself.  The juke has the capability to be displayed on screens throughout a premises. The jukebox’s presence in a modest bar or tavern automatically elevates the location to a new level.”

When Michael Bloomberg was city mayor, locations were given permission to present nine games.

“This initiative brought renewed life to many locations,” Goldberg says. “It helped economic development. Yet, in our post-COVID period, there is so much more potential if government policy makers are in a cooperative mode with the members of our sector. I am optimistic that incoming Mayor Eric Adams sees this!”

Goldberg was a prime mover in convincing government officials to facilitate outdoor dining and beverage service.

“For many business owners in our space, it enabled them to stay open and survive,” he says. “Again, it is incumbent on the government to be in a cooperative mode to help these business owners, rather than pounce on them with penalties, summonses and impossible regulations.”

In addition to his expertise, which he is called upon to share with government officials, his role in NY jukebox music makes music artists reach out to him. For more than a decade, Goldberg has been president of the Amusement & Music Owners Association of New York Inc. He is also active in the Greater New York Metro Regional ATM Association. His peers respect his leadership in fulfilling these roles.

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