Cards Against Humanity has sold its Chicago restaurant seven months after the company opened the board game-focused cafe. Chicago Board Game Cafe is now part of Canadian board game cafe mini-chain Snakes & Lattes. It will shed its original name, taking on the branding of its new owners when it reopens in October 14.
The cafe represented an ambitious project for CAH, a brand that’s based in Chicago. Three months ago, co-founder Max Temkin departed following accusations of fostering a racist and sexist culture. The allegations did not center around the restaurant.
But some supporters began distancing themselves from the cafe, which provides customers with a venue to play board games while enjoying international street food with an Asian focus from Aaron McKay, a chef who cooked at Chicago’s beloved Michelin-starred Schwa. As health experts discouraged the public from eating at restaurants, the restaurant began offering takeout, with new items, like a burger, that are more conducive to carryout.
Cards Against Humanity declined to address if Temkin’s departure from the enterprise played a role in the sale. A spokesperson for Cards Against Humanity provided this statement:
We wanted to put the cafe in the hands of a company with expertise in running board game cafes, expertise we did not have. Given the pandemic, we believe this is the best way to give this magical place and its hard-working staff the best chance to succeed.
In Snakes & Lattes, the cafe has found an experienced partner who won’t tinker with the established formula. Game concierges will still teach customers how to play the various board games inside the cafe’s vault. Snakes & Lattes runs a trio of locations, with one in Toronto and another in Tempe, Arizona. Its parent company, Amfil Technologies, plans on an aggressive expansion across the country, and Snakes & Lattes’ president and CEO, Ben Castanie, says his company has coveted opening a Chicago location. According to Castanie, Cards Against Humanity approached Amfil to inquire if they were interested as a buyer.
Chicago will be somewhat of an outlier for Snakes & Lattes, a name derived from children’s game Chutes and Ladders. Amfil won’t tinker too much with the existing infrastructure left by the previous regime. McKay will remain involved, but he’s taking a larger role with Amfil. He’ll serve as Snakes & Lattes’ vice president of food and beverage and help open other cafes across the country. Locally, the cafe hired Damian Sandoval (North Pond, Mi Tocaya Antojeria) as the new chef du cuisine.
Gaming restaurants and bars have had a rough time during the pandemic, and arcade bars have struggled. On Thursday, Chicago landmark Southport Lanes — which featured a bowling alley — announced its closure after nearly 100 years. In the era of COVID-19, Castanie says his cafes need to be vigilant with thoroughly cleaning games and adhering to best practices as established by the government. Chicago allows indoor dining with a maximum 25 percent capacity, but McKay says they’ll probably welcome fewer customers than that. One casualty will be the basement escape rooms, which won’t be open when the cafe welcomes customers back in October.
“We have to think about how we have to operate in the next three months, the next six months, the next year,” Castanie says.
Parent company Amfil, which distributes board games in American and Canada, is publicly traded and has been around for 35 years. The sale price was not disclosed.
- Former employees accuse Cards Against Humanity of a racist and sexist office culture [Polygon]
- Cards Against Humanity Cafe Pushes on Despite Racist and Sexist Allegations [Eater Chicago]
- The restaurant that serves board games [Polygon]
- Snakes & Lattes
- Cards Against Humanity sells Chicago Board Game Cafe; restaurant will reopen next month under new name [Tribune]