For a long time, the board game cafe business has been a Monopoly in Victoria, but on Friday a new company will take a Risk and they’re not at all Sorry.
Local couple Alyssa Chow and Nicholas Switzer are opening Board with Friends board game cafe on Friday, after dreaming of the opportunity for years.
“Both of us are big board game fans,” Chow said in an interview with Victoria Buzz.
“Nick is the board game guru, he knows every game inside and out. It’s incredible how much information he can hold.”
She says they have played games in cafes all over Canada, including at InterActivity Board Game Cafe on Yates Street.
Until now, InterActivity has been the only game in town. Chow says that seeing the Yates Street cafe frequently packed with patrons inspired her and Switzer to pursue the business as well.
“There was such high demand, and we both love it, so we thought why not try it?”
Chow says there’s a large market craving board game entertainment, and plenty of business to go around between the two cafes.
Board with Friends is holding their grand opening on Friday, after two years of work to secure permits and rezoning for the heritage building at 705 Johnson Street.
The process proved to be a bit challenging and delayed their planned opening in May 2020. Chow says the building had been zoned for retail under thrift store Vintage Funk and it was tricky to retrieve the right permits.
“The City has been really great for the majority of the process,” she said.
“But dealing with the heritage building, and rezoning it for food service was hard. We didn’t realize how much we would have to jump through hoops.”
On top of navigating the chutes and ladders of municipal zoning, Chow and Switzer also had to plan for the delicate operation of COVID-19.
“One really awesome thing we did pre-COVID was we decided to do table service,” said Chow.
“Customers order food or drink on an iPad. We can reduce the times that a customer has to get out of their seat, we can bring food to them with a mask.”
The partners also made the decision to widely space their tables apart, both for COVID-19 safety and to give the cafe a homier environment.
Chow says they are working to appeal to the local crowd by partnering with local suppliers for ingredients and products, including Cafe Fantastico for coffee and Parachute Ice Cream for milkshakes.
She adds that although the pandemic will make their initial start-up challenging, they feel there’s never been a better time for people to play board games.
“We want to bring the social culture of game night,” said Chow.
“Space is limited, but we can provide new board games that people may have always wanted to try. And you bring people together in a nice safe bubble.”