The DNAinfo archives brought to you by WNYC.
Read the press release here.

Could Chicago Finally Get Its Board Game Cafe? Bonus Round Owners Hope So

By Ariel Cheung | August 25, 2016 8:17am
 Courtney Hartley and husband Drew Lovell host Bonus Round pop-up board game nights as they prepare to open their own game cafe in Lakeview or Logan Square.
Courtney Hartley and husband Drew Lovell host Bonus Round pop-up board game nights as they prepare to open their own game cafe in Lakeview or Logan Square.
View Full Caption
DNAinfo/Ariel Cheung

WRIGLEYVVILLE — The couple bringing pop-up board game nights to Lakeview and Logan Square bars are ready to roll the dice on a place of their own.

Bonus Round Games launched its Kickstarter campaign Tuesday, three years after owners Courtney Hartley and Drew Lovell first began work on what will be Chicago's first permanent board game cafe.

"We've poured everything we have into this — not just what we own, but ourselves — into making this a reality," Lovell said. "And we're hitting a milestone, but it's not the finish line."

Within 24 hours, almost 100 backers have pledged $6,570.

If all goes well, and the Kickstarter campaign can raise $8,000, Bonus Round Games could have its own location opening by the end of 2016.

And its sights are set on Wrigleyville.

Lovell and Hartley already picked out a Racine Street storefront where they hope to open the board game cafe. The cafe will serve Dark Matter Coffee, espresso, snacks and sandwiches that can be shared among players. The roastery will also create a custom blend — tentatively named Bonus Grounds — for the cafe.

Largely borrowing from their own collection, the Uptown couple estimates the cafe will be stocked with 200-300 games by the time it opens. Staff will be on hand to help select games and show newbies the ropes.

The cafe will have a cover charge of around $7 per person that allows customers to stay and play as long as they want. Those not planning to play games will not be charged.

As part of the Kickstarter campaign, donors can receive memberships to the cafe, freeing them of cover charges. On some donation levels, vouchers for friends are included.

The money raised will go to the cafe's game library, furnishings and marketing.

Over the last year, Hartley and Lovell have tested their concept at pop-up events, usually at Osmium Coffee Bar in Lakeview and Emporium Arcade Bar in Logan Square.

"We've had a wait list pretty much this entire year — it's a problem, but it's a good problem to have," Lovell said. The events also serve to test the viability of their concept.

As co-owners of Bonus Round Game Cafe work on a brick-and-mortar location, they've been hosting pop-up game nights in Lakeview and Logan Square. [Provided/Courtney Hartley]

While their idea sprung from a honeymoon trip to Toronto and a visit to its Snakes and Lattes cafe, Lovell said he knows it'll be hard work to find success in Chicago. Hesitant to set an opening date with the myriad of city red tape ahead of him, Lovell said he was wary of promising too much or biting off more than they could chew.

After all, Chicago's last game-centric venture failed to get off the ground, despite multiple crowd-funding campaigns raising more than $56,000.

Geek Bar Beta began in Wicker Park in 2014 as a stopgap before a permanent location opened in Lincoln Park. But after pumping $300,000 into the Lincoln Park shop, Geek Bar owner David Zoltan asked for — and received — a final $11,000 in donations in July to pay rent and back wages with the hopes of rescuing Geek Bar Beta from its bureaucratic demise.

The bar lasted another eight months.

In March, the business changed hands and became SFCO, with Zoltan no longer involved, according to the company's Facebook. The name serves as a nod to the former Storefront Company.

In a public statement, Zoltan expressed sorrow that Geek Bar failed, but said he still "saw a glimpse of what was possible, and I am grateful for the chance to bring even a sliver of that vision to you all."

He added that it was his choice to resign after reaching his "exhaustion point after fighting non-stop for three and a half years."

Most recently, the 1941 W. North Ave. storefront has been home to Saved By The Max.

For more neighborhood news, listen to DNAinfo Radio here: