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Image: Offline Board Game Café

Board game café puts the pieces together for success

By Scott Pettigrew May 28, 2023 | 8:00 AM

A new patio space is in the works this June for the Offline Board Game Cafe, according to owners Susan Pass and Danielle Ritchie.

The café, which relocated from uptown following its closure during the pandemic, has recently gotten its liquor license and is offering the same in-house hospitality services including food, that it offered in its previous locations.

“Our most popular cocktail is called Peachwork,” says Pass. Named after the popular board game Patchwork, the signature creation is a mix of peach schnapps, whisky and ginger ale.

“We also do floats, so a lot of people like to get a root beer float then we put vanilla vodka in it and that’s really nice.”

While the soon-to-be-open patio hasn’t been approved yet for a liquor license, the outdoor space should be open soon with room for 20-30 board game enthusiasts.

Since reopening at the Parkway Mall at 120 McAllister Drive in February, the new location is beginning to feel a lot more like home. With seating for over 130 people, a full kitchen, a liquor license, and the patio on the way for the summer, Pass and Ritchie say they’re seeing increased demand for the space.

Corporate events with Nerf gun shootouts and occasional Nerf nitro car racing keep the cafe in demand for team-building excursions, while regular Monday night trivia, as well as the steady stream of folks dropping in to play their favourite game, has kept things busy.

It’s been a tough few years for the café as it struggled during the pandemic. Not seeing a way forward after attempting a board game delivery business during the lockdowns, the two had decided to close up shop for good. But the call to return to board games was just too strong. They still had most of their game library and have started to rebuild the ones that were sold during the closure.

Their customers missed the cafe too, and when news spread that they were going to open once more, there was support and celebration.

“It was really kind of breathtaking to reopen our Facebook page and make the post that we were up to something….to see that we still had over 4000 people who were excited about that,” says Ritchie.

“We have a combination of return [customers] and just a lovely new group of people who have discovered us. A lot of [new customers] who said: ‘I never got to the other location and I always wanted to’”, says Pass.

The cafe is taking advantage of the available space and seating and hosting regular events to create a community at the cafe. They even host workshops where they reconstruct and deconstruct classic games into something new.

“We’ll do kind of like game hacking,” says Pass. “So you take a classic like UNO and add a rule, or take away a rule and try to play. You learn the mechanics of how a game is structured. What makes it work, what makes it better and what makes it broken.”

Pass believes that there are many social nuances involved in playing a game in person, which are often lost in the world of online gaming. These nuances are especially important for kids to learn.

“Just watching someone else have their turn, and appreciating the moves that they make,” is something that was missing during pandemic online gameplay, Pass says.

“When we have school groups…we help the kids lose and win with grace.”

Ritchie, who worked at nursing homes in her career prior to the cafe, has been noticing the senior population in particular as they come in to use the space.

“What we do see is a lot of grandparents who are in with their grandkids…. the generational gap and [games] building a bridge between that gap,” she says. “If you had a game you liked when you were a kid, your parents might have played that with you, and then they play it with their grandkids.”

The cafe is wheelchair accessible including the washrooms, and has a large, free, parking lot for those that have trouble walking or taking transit.

The cafe offers unlimited board games at a cost of $5 per visit, with seniors and those under 12 paying $3. Children aged two and under enter for free.

Alex Graham is a reporter with Huddle, an Acadia Broadcasting content partner.


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