More than a year after a successful crowdfunding campaign, Bonus Round Game Cafe is preparing to open in Lakeview. The space will serve coffee, food, beer, and wine to give board game fans a place to commiserate and play games like Settlers of Catan and Raiders of the North Sea. Co-owners Drew Lovell and Courtney Hartley want to focus more on new and potential board gamers and to provide an interactive option where friends can gather versus a movie or loud bar where conversation is difficult.
Lovell and Hartley, who are married, have conducted Bonus Round pop-ups in places like Logan Arcade and Beermiscuous over the last two years. Those experiences have readied them to open their 1,700-square-foot space at 3230 N. Clark Street. They’re about four weeks from opening, Lovell said, and they’ll be able to fit 50 to 55 people.
“It’s kind of interesting — a lot of what we’re trying to do at the cafe is not necessarily catered directly at traditional gaming crowds,” Lovell said. “We trying to open it up a lot more to other people.”
Lovell explained that his favorite customer is someone who tells him that they don’t want to play the games, that they’re just content to watch. Those customers show the open-mindedness that they’re interested in learning and just need a push. Bonus Round’s staff will be ready to help those customers and indoctrinate them into the world of gaming. They’ll have shelves of games for customers to try and staff will teach visitors how to play the games if needed. The gaming library will start with 300 titles. If there’s a game that’s not at the cafe, Lovell said they’ll order the title or visitors can bring their own. Just like most games — from basketball, to cards, to ping pong — players need enough resources and people to play.
Bonus Round will serve a full menu of coffee and espresso. The food will be limited to finger foods and sandwiches: “The main thing is nothing drippy, gooey, or runny because we don’t want the games to get messy,” Lovell said. Lovell and Hartley worked in catering, so there’s some food industry experience.
Lovell said beer and wine aren’t the focus. Alcohol is only meant to complement the experience. Likewise, don’t expect free WiFi to connect laptops and other devices. There are plenty of other cafes in the neighborhood to fill that niche, Lovell said. The Internet can be a distraction for gamers. All it takes is one Facebook-obsessed person who’s not paying attention to ruin a game.
Bonus Round will be open during the day on weekdays. Lovell hopes to provide restaurant and bar industry workers a space for fun before their nighttime shifts.
Sorry, Dungeons & Dragons players. Even though Lovell loves pen and paper role-playing games, the space may not offer enough privacy for those type of games. It’s more of a communal setting which may not make it the best venue. Lovell wants to see what happens after they open — maybe it will work out.
Successful restaurant Kickstarters aren’t frequent — they raised more than $11,000, the goal was $10,000 — and Bonus Round hopes to take that momentum and give the gaming community something unique. Lovell said they struggled with finding a location, but were pleased to find one near Clark and Belmont. It’s also near Chicago Comics, and he hopes to build some synergy with the well-respected comic book store.