One dream everyone of any sub culture has is the dream of a hangout, a place where you can just be yourself and be surrounded by people who share your interests. A lot of sub cultures have these kinds of places. My sister, the queen of all Goths (no really, I have evidence) has introduced me to many clubs that cater to her scene. There are also country/western bars, sports bars, punk bars, and new age coffee houses.
What all of these places have in common is a source of revenue that is not directly tied to the sub culture they are catering to. The reason you need to have that revenue source is simple. You need to pay the bills to keep the space open so that we can have our great hang out.
Well, what about geek culture? Where do we get to hang out?
Conventions don’t count. There are events that happen at specific times and then are over.
For a lot of us the hang out of choice has been the local comic book shop. It has the prerequisite source of income and some of them even have places to sit. But it is missing something that all my other examples had; a product that can be consumed by someone that has dragged there by a friend.
I’m not a Goth, but thanks to my sister I have found myself in more than one Goth club. Even though I am not Goth, I can still get a drink.
If I drag someone not into geek culture to a comic book shop what are they going to do? Hang out and listen to me argue the merits of the DC new 52 with the other guys there?
It’s not like there are geek themed bars and restaurants out there.
Or are there?
Remember in my Power of the Geek post, where I said that the geek vote is a powerful thing and gaining its good will can bring great success. Well of late some enterprising nerds have realized this, and have created themed establishments meant to cater to the geek crowd.
In New York you have The Way Station, a bar where you have steam punk weapons over the bar and the door to the restrooms is a replica of the TARDIS.
Here in the shadow of Seattle, the geek capital of the world (apparently there is now a study backing me up on that) we have the AFKtavern. It is a geek friendly restaurant and bar. It is heavily gaming themed, but they have a broad appeal to the geek spectrum. It is well lit, has good food, and you can order games from a menu that they will bring to your table.
I’ve never been to the Way Station so I cannot speak from experience, but they have good reviews so I will say give them a glance if you are in the area.
The AFK I can say does hit the nail on the head as far as being a geek hangout. As I said earlier, they have a source of revenue separate from the geek culture, that being their food, which is pretty good.
But you also have to play to your culture. As I stated earlier in addition to food and drink they have games on the menu. Everything from Apples to Apples to Munchkin, to D&D. They have a vending machine that has dice and Magic: the Gathering cards. A couple of the tables are big enough for food and gaming books and maps. They also have banks of console games. Lately when I have gone in there is usually someone playing Skyrim. Then menu itself is a lot of fun as they give a geek spin to everything on the menu. Garlic Cheese bread is called Dwarven Battle Bread and the chili cheese fries are fries +2. One of the popular drinks is called the Arrow to the Knee.
Theme nights are big there too. Cosplay is also encouraged. I have yet to go in there and not see at least a few people in costume. I think it was brave on one soul to come in dressed as a ninja on pirate night. The week of Norwescon when half the staff was at the convention it was meat on a stick night.
The one drawback I see is the curse of a successful idea. It is often packed on the weekends and unless you call ahead you can wait well over an hour for a table. I know that doesn’t sound like a problem but if walk-ins can’t get in they will just leave and then warn their friends away. It’s a fine line that a business like this has to walk and while it is going well so far I do hope they are looking at ways to deal with this for the future.
Overall my hope is that this trend will continue and we will see geek themed clubs and restaurants becoming more common.
There is another offshoot of this that needs to be looked at. The movie theaters with full service restaurants, but that will have to wait until next week.
I've been to the AFK twice now, and have yet to actually play a game there. But its nice to know the option is open to me.For awhile, GameWorks (still open) filled this niche, as did the Wizards of the Coast Store/Arena (sadly, no longer with us) that was once in the University District. Gameworks seems to manage staying open by catering to a younger crowd and Families. The WotC Arena offered much in the way of Games and Event, but severely lacked in revenue collection and was hence its demise.Is there room for more of these Gaming/Dining/Hangout venues?
I'll have to check this out. After all the biggest downside of all of my favorite culturally specific hangouts at the moment is they have no liquor license.
It is definitely worth the trip, and they are in negotiations now to open a second location, so soon it might not be quite the trip for some of us. I hold a regular TT game there one Sunday a month – they even offer the gamemaster a discount on his/her food and drink.