Friday, November 05, 2010

Pretty Gamer Interviews! 'AFK Tavern: A Place for Geeks and Gamers'


I can't count the number of times throughout the years that the topic of a bar or pub just for gamers has popped up. Probably thousands within my earshot alone. But today, in Everett, Washington - a dream of epic proportions is finally coming true. And get this: your 18+ friends are welcome.


When I heard about AFK Tavern through the grapevine I made a beeline for research and sent an interview request via email. On the other end of the tubes I found Kayla and Alison, two funny, kick ass gamers on a mission to bring our community together again - by offering up the one thing that's swiftly disappearing: a place we can come together and play.




  • Alison: Secretary / PR / Awesome Pants.
  • Kayla: President / Creator


Geek Claim to Fame

Alison:
Creating a D&D character so fucked up that my story teller keeps remaking her as a central villain.

Kayla:
Multi-boxed Lich King with four shaman... google Nechja.


If you could only play one game forever, it'd be _____

Alison:
I’d choose World of Warcraft with the assumption that I was alone. If I had a group of people sharing forever with, it would be Deadlands. :D

Kayla - I’m in the same boat as Alison actually.

The Basics of AFK Tavern: Hours, Capacity, Age Restrictions?

Kayla:

I’ll take this one, 3 pm to 3 am currently, we’ll look at doing lunch
es depending on demand. Per our Occupancy Permit, we have a max capacity of 233, per our floor plan we have seating for about 190. so.. yeah, somewhere between that. It's big!

Alison:
We’ll be checking any one's ID that doesn’t have obvious wrinkles. The liquor board employs people under 21 to sneak into places and try to buy alcohol. We are _not_ going to be shut down by something so noobish. After IDing someone we’ll be marking tables that have someone under 21. We will not tolerate people slipping drinks to minors.

Kayla:
Pretty much what Alison said. It’s 18+ to be in
side without any full time adult supervision. We don’t watch your kids for you.

Menu Overview: Beer, Liquor, Mead?!

Kayla:
Our
menu is designed to be simple, straight forward and good instead of doing a lot poorly. We plan on doing a small amount with a high degree of quality. We focused on higher quality ingrediants (local and organic when possible), and not getting frozen meat!

Our mixed drink menu on the other hand is fun, playful
, and most of all hella geeky. (Yes I used hella - we’ll all get over it.) Any how, we took the time to come up with some theme drinks that aren't just renames of classics.

Beer... if I could have 100 taps, I would. But that’s not our focus. 16 taps with rotating taps is what we have now. Focus on Northwest brands.

Alison:
That’s not a menu, that’s a drink list. And you forgot wine! :D

Forms of payment accepted?
 
Alison:
The usual, it's a business. Cash, Card, Check. We might try PayPal! *shrugs*

Kayla:
You can’t pay us in barter or imaginary money. I don’t care how much gil or gold you have...





Even though I feel it's an insanely silly question, I'll ask anyway for those who don't get it - why a space dedicated to geeks and gamers? Is there a particular “geek focus”? (General, Gaming, Literature, Movie? Any sub-group there of?)

Alison:
Not silly at all. We have primarily focused on Gaming geeks, and some Anime/cosplay with special events. The beer geeks seem to be coming out of the wood work though. ;) haha, we aren’t going to turn away any geekery, but really the owners are gamers making a bar for gamers. We aren’t comic book nerds, we aren’t huge movie buffs. Wit
h that said, we are trying to be as inclusive of every type of gamer as we can manage. Collectibles, Tabletop, Video games. Honestly if we missed one, let us know! We want to have a wide variety so that gamers of one stripe, who maybe only ever played WoW, can go “hey, that Stratego thing looks cool, maybe I’ll try that...” For geekers who aren’t gamers, well, we hope they can find a spot to pull up a pint and feel at home as well.

AFK Tavern sounds like a dream come true. What was the initial timetable? How did you decide on Everett as the final location? Which markets and geographic areas did you consider?

Alison:
Kayla spent 2 years working on the business plan. We wanted to be opening in July of 2010, and we settled on Everett because that was the only location that would lease to us. Finding commerical kitchen locations is not trivial. We had a location lined up in Lynnwood which backed out on us at the very last minute. We looked at going further South than that, but the cost just escalates extremely, for no increase in square footage. For what we want to do, we need some serious table space. If we wanted to get off of the I-5 corridor we might have swung it, but we had a litmus test of “Can I Google maps this and remember the directions in my head?”. I personally am very happy with the location we ended up in. 41st street is the exit _right_ before the majority of Highway 2 / Marysville traffic. Anyone commuting north going “good god, why are there so many brake lights?” can just pull over to the far right and zoom up to the exit, pop in for a few hours then head home when sanity has been restored.

Kayla:
It was a lot of work to get open in Everett. Trust me when I say we looked all over. We wanted to be close to the I-5 corridor. So many places were like half an hour in little or light traffic it was aggravating to get to... Our place is just off the highway with nothing confusing, and amazing floor space.

The remodel seems like a real labor of love with rich colors that combine inviting comfort and playful practicality. What were your design inspirations?

Kayla:
I thought "steampunk chic", and went from there. Every one would be like “Hey Kayla whats this room?” and I’d sit for a couple minutes with a color wheel... and tell them “well lets go to the paint store.”

Alison:
Kayla is a color goddess. We wanted steam punk, irish pub, and above all else, _no Asian influence_. The sushi restaurant that was in this location before us had to be entirely destroyed. :P


Okay, now to the fun stuff! From browsing your Facebook page is looks like the focus of AFK Tavern is tabletop gaming with additional space for console play and a laptop area. Is this accurate?

Alison:
If you count any Pen and paper games, any card game, any board game, any figurine game and any mixtures of the above as “tabletop” then yeah that’s pretty accurate.. I mean.. really what else is there? hacky sack? <_<>ed. note: electrical outlets], often plug ins are in short supply.. It’s not restricted to laptops only, if someone wants to lug in their desk anchor, we won’t tell them no.

Kayla:
If we’ve missed something tell us. We’ll figure out a way to bring it in for a night or two a month. We want this to be a place for gamers and geeks. Not just a place for what we think gamers and geeks should be.

How does AFK Tavern work exactly? It sounds like people have several options: dropping in to play a game, bringing friends & a game to play together, creating their own gaming events and play groups via your website, or just showing up to hang out and have a drink and some grub.

Kayla:
We make our money off of food and drink. The games are here for you to play. We take your ID and put it in back so you can check something out... you break it you buy it. Now you can sign up on our website, and be a registered game. That means you get a special menu... like happy hour... but the whole night. You can reserve areas a day or more in advance. We only allow so many reservations per night. And some nights are blacked out. Really AFK Tavern is for gamers. If we messed something up tell us. We’ll fix it.

Alison:
Yes. We are going to have some “free” games that are “officially sponsored”. Some of these will be weekly events or maybe we’ll just do the first session and expect people to carry on themselves. Its very much the model of any gaming store.




Will AFK Tavern have a dedicated games library? Do you encourage patrons to bring their own board, card, and tabletop games?

Yes we do have a few games on hand to loan out. Several of them have been donated from stores in the area, or fans. But we do encourage everyone to bring in the game they are interested in. We certainly aren’t dedicating ourselves to an exhaustive library.

Let's talk more about “The Console Bar” with 11 stations. Which consoles will you have available? Will you have games available for checkout or rental? Can patrons bring their own? How will the area operate re: deposits, time slots? Also, is there space for Rock Band?

Alison:
We’ll have 10 Xbox’s, two PS3s, and a Rock band/Kinetic area. Checking out a game from us is free of charge. You have to turn in your ID and a Credit card to get a controller though. We hope to never charge for it. Right now it’s first come first serve, but if you’re not ordering and there is a line well...

Kayla:
You’re more than welcome to bring your own games. My staff won’t lose it; we have some pretty good control on that kind of stuff. If you’d like to save your games you should also bring in a USB stick or hard drive of some kind. Yes we have a “stage” for rock band. Hope people enjoy it.


Camping: How do you plan on balancing a “home away from home” atmosphere with the need to profitably turnover tables? For gaming groups involved in long games like Risk or D&D, will you let groups stay as long as they like?

Kayla:
I never want to (have to) kick some one out who is in a long game. With that said ordering coffee on a Friday and taking up one of our large booths is not going to cut it. We’d like to not charge for the use of a table with some flat rental fee. We’d like you to buy food and drink. You’re going to be sitting in our place for six hours... then enjoy your self have a good time. We have group menus to help ease the pocket books for long games as well. Pretty much if you’re ordering food and drink, I’ll be happy to keep you till closing, and if you’re real nice to us we can always go a little longer. All this comes from my assumption people aren't huge jerks. If it does become an issue we have plans to handle it. You should see my stack of contingency plans... It’s like I’m planning an invasion. Pretty much if people don’t abuse it they won’t lose it. We aren't powered by some magic entropic money generators. Although it’d be cool if we were.

Alison:
I’m very much of the mind: don’t assume it’ll be a problem until it proves to be. We’ve had tons of people be like “they’ll just buy soda” or “they’ll steal your controlers” or “All gamers are fat and lazy none of them have money.” Well yeah, they might, and you know if it happens we’ll deal with it. But I want to give people some credit and think that maybe they know that we do have bills to pay. Still, we _are not_ running this to make some extreme amount of money. If it covers the bills I’m happy.


Will there be a cover for special events or other programming? Any plans for appropriately themed live music (aka bards)?

We can’t have Live music per Fire code and the Liquor board. Not in the bar anyways. And we cant’ charge covers to play on any of the consoles. Its against the EULA. We are planning on some parking lot parties in the summer though! so we aim to have live music then. :)


Explain the concept behind “event nights”. Does this include gaming competitions (Rock Band/Guitar Hero, Halo, etc)? Will there be specific game nights, and if so what games are you planning?

Alison:
We are planning on some retro Magic nights, some game release party’s, very much some console tournament. We are having some Anime costume nights, and if a LARP wants to rent us out, our wait staff will be prepared to act like NPC’s. :D


Does AFK Tavern offer room or area rentals for private parties? Are you taking reservations for Geek wedding receptions?

Alison:
See some of the above. We are for sure willing to reserve the space.

Kayla:
...Geek Weddings? Hell if some one really wants to I’ll try to make it work. Never actually thought of that.


How has the response been from the geek and gaming community? Have you pursued any type of sponsorship or support from local gaming companies (Microsoft, Nintendo, ArenaNet, Valve, etc)?

Alison:
Its hard to pursue people when you aren’t anyone. I think we’ll have some better luck after we’re open and have some “geek cred”. I tried to contact Microsoft several times, and Wizards of the Coast once. *shrugs* _I_ thought I was a crank. I didn’t particularly mind not getting through the filter. :P As far as the response from the community, its been overwhelming. I literally am blow away at how excited and amazed people are to be here. I’m not really sure what they expect other than well, what we’ve said so far. I’m praying we don’t disappoint.

Kayla:
I called a bunch of people. Most the time they blew me off. I wondered how many people had a fun drunken night and were like. “HEY I HAVE THIS AWESOME IDEA.” Then called these companys asking for money and sponsorship. It seemed like the idea was like asking for Bill Gates at any Microsoft building. “Security we have a crazy person.” The community... we had hoped. But when I wrote up all our tactics and strategies I assumed no one would even hear about us for a couple years. But I had hoped we’d have a community. After all I still think of us as a gaming community center that funds it’s self off food and drink. But the response has been... I don’t have the right words for it. I’d get too teared up trying to come up with them.



Is there anything else you want everyone to know about AFK Tavern? :

Alison:
We started out 4 years ago wanting to open a gaming store. After some good research into it, we discovered that gaming stores are dying, and to open a new one is just taking away from the business of existing gaming stores. Did you know that the majority of cash flow in several of the gaming stores we researched was the sale of canned soda pop? Not games, soda pop. Why? Everything your buying has horrible margin on it, tons of cash tied up, and any of it can be bought from Amazon.

So you have people hanging out at your store, not buying things cause its cheaper online, but well you can’t play most of them on the internet, so they come into your store. Voila! You're a babysitting service! A very very underpaid, under appreciated babysitting service for ages 12 to 55. So where in the 80’s and 90’s Gaming stores were the central go to location for new and inventive things, now gaming stores are locked into just doing what they can to stay alive. Which means very tight relationships with generally very proprietary company's. *cough*Wizards of the Coast and Games Workshop*cough*.

It's sad, but the community no longer has its community centers, at the exact time when Gaming is getting more popular, and more mainstream. That’s what we want AFK Tavern to be. We want it to provide a home for all gamers to just celebrate being a gamer. For people to explore the many different games that are out their they never would have tried before. To get people pumped up and maybe advertise for these struggling stores to drive them business. I identify myself as a Gamer. I want to build a home for my community.

Kayla:
What she said! I want people to know, at the end of the day... we did this all with love and friendship. No evil or banks involved. Every day we put into this we poured our selves into this work. I hope you enjoy it.

___________________________________


So there you have it! The long (very very insanely long) and short of all you need to know about AFK Tavern. The Grand Opening is tonight, Friday November 5th until 3am - so grab some friends and go play some games! Special thanks to Kayla and Alison from AFK Tavern as well as Nomad, Lord Moon Vydeo for suggesting questions.


AFK Tavern is located at 1510 41st St. in Everett, WA 98201 and can be reached at (425) 259-0525.

2 comments:

  1. Sitting in your establishment right now, and it is awesome.

    Good work!

    ReplyDelete