Owner of Burbank’s new esports bar wants it to be ‘better than being at your friend’s apartment for game night’

Glance at Guild Hall from the sidewalk, and it looks like just another Burbank neighborhood bar.

There are all the expected features: dozens of liquor bottles, beer taps, gastropub burgers and televisions.

But go inside 3516 W. Victory Blvd., and you will see a cocktail inspired by the dad-dating simulation game “Dream Daddy,” a large bookshelf with three editions of “Settlers of Catan” and a plethora of other strategy board games.

Instead of live sports, TVs are showing Twitch live streams of “Dota 2,” “Super Mario Maker,” “PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds,” “League of Legends” and other popular video games.

Guild Hall is, in fact, an esports bar, where gamers and nerds can eat, play games and watch livestreamers try out different games or professional gaming teams duke it out in tournaments.

Unlike EightyTwo, a vintage arcade bar in downtown Los Angeles, or Game Haus, a board-game cafe in Glendale, Guild Hall owner Spencer Cox said he wanted to create an establishment that focused on esports but still provided a comfortable place where patrons can grab a craft beer or cocktail, order good food and play an assortment of board games.

“I wanted to create a place that was an elevated space for you to be a nerd that’s better than being at your friend’s apartment for game night,” Cox said.

Cox, 29, of Eagle Rock, grew up playing video games. He came up with the idea to open an esports bar after attending a viewing party of a “League of Legends” tournament finals at a packed Dave & Buster’s restaurant.

“Over 7,500 people showed up, and it was a madhouse,” he said. “The bartenders were ill-equipped and didn’t know what was going on. Meanwhile I was playing pool, drinking a bourbon, having the best experience I’ve ever had because I got to enjoy [a livestream] that I usually have to enjoy from home.”

On a recent Thursday night, Guild Hall was moderately busy with 30 to 40 patrons. Customers commented on a live “League of Legends” match and gawked while a gamer tried to make his way through an extremely difficult “Super Mario Maker” course.

In the back nook of the bar a group engaged in an intense game of Jenga while a livestream of “Dota 2” played on a television.

“I think this is awesome,” said Bakersfield resident Elijah Solomon, 29, in Burbank visiting friends. “I’m surprised that more people haven’t done it because watching streams like this is like watching sports.”

Burbank resident Scott Telkamp was at a nearby table with a friend playing the strategic board game “Castles of Burgundy.”

Telkamp, 49, was intrigued by going to a bar that offered both board and electronic games.

“I’ve been to other board game cafes, but they just focus on board games, but don’t have the esports, so it’s a nice combination,” Telkamp said.

Having noticed esports’ rise in popularity, Telkamp said it was only a matter of time until a place like Guild Hall would open.

“I think that esports appears to be just as popular to a younger generation as regular sports was to us,” he said. “Seeing how quickly it’s grown, it doesn’t surprise me that an establishment like this would pop up. We’re at that point now where it gives that generation somewhere to hang out.”


Twitter: @acocarpio

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