Dave & Buster’s — a Gold Coast fixture for 22 years for arcade games, bowling, drinking, and food — appears on the move to the Mag Mile. Officials at a Tuesday night community meeting announced that they have signed a lease to relocate to the fourth floor of the Water Tower Place shopping mall. Angry residents used racially charged language during the meeting, according to CWBChicago, saying they don’t want Dave & Buster’s on ritzy Michigan Avenue, with one calling the Gold Coast location a “thugland.”
In many ways, Dave & Buster’s popularized the beer-arcade concept. The new restaurant could occupy about half the shopping center’s fourth floor at 835 N. Michigan Avenue. They’re shooting to open in 2020. Alderman Brian Hopkins (2nd Ward) told residents they’d talk with police about safety factors. Besides the thugland comment, residents blew another dogwhistle, saying the Gold Coast location attracts “gang activity.” Reactions like this aren’t new to the Chicago area. Take a look at how The Plaza in suburban Evergreen Park has changed through the years. Dave & Buster’s already is conscious of this in the Gold Coast, as it has a dress code at that location.
Water Tower is more than a 10-minute walk from Dave & Buster’s at 1030 N. Clark Street. The fancy urban shopping center is home to some of the world’s most posh retailers. Food options include Harry Caray’s, Mity Nice Bar & Grill, M Burger, and FoodLife. Another resident who attended Tuesday’s meeting asked how Dave & Buster’s would affect Water Tower’s image. A restaurant rep said an express elevator would take Dave & Buster’s customers to the fourth level during after hours.
Hopkins told Crain’s earlier in December that Dave & Buster’s saw the opportunity to move to Water Tower as a chance to expand its footprint in Chicago and redesign its space. The market for video game arcades is much different now compared to the mid-’90s. Smart phones offer more computing power than most massive arcade cabinets. Diners want more than a grown-up Chuck E. Cheese’s from a restaurant, especially in Chicago.
Dallas-based Dave & Buster’s has five Chicago-area locations and more than 100 across North America. Last year, the company announced plans to unveil smaller locations, slightly pivoting away from arcade games and focusing more on being a sports bar. It sounds like the Water Tower Place could adapt this design.
A call to Dave & Buster’s corporate headquarters wasn’t immediately returned.