Chicagoans may soon have a new place to geek out. David Zoltan leads the team behind the concept.
“Geek Bar Chicago is a place where geeks, nerds, dorks and dweebs can find a place to call home in the city,” Zoltan said. “Our vision statement is celebrate geekdom in all its forms, so we’re not going for a specific type of geek.”
The bar will cater for people interested in everything from science to video games. He says it will have a menu for board games, geek-inspired food and drinks, and possible decor featuring lightsabers and the scrolling characters from the Matrix.
Zoltan got the idea last year, when it was announced that the new Doctor Who season would be starting.
“I thought, I don’t have cable. I’d like to watch the show with a bunch of my Whovian friends and other Whovians from the rest of Chicago,” he said. “(But) while I can throw a stone out and reach a half dozen sports bars in Chicago, there isn’t a place for the geek."
Zoltan and his team are raising money for the project through Kickstarter. He’s raised more than $25,000 and ends his campaign at the end of August. If they reach $70,000, the bar will buy an official life-sized replica of the Iron Throne from Game of Thrones and use it as special seating. They are currently scouting locations and are focusing on what Zoltan calls Chicago’s Geek Triangle, the area bounded by Lincoln Square, Lakeview and Uptown. He says that’s where most geeky Chicagoans live or play. They hope to open in March next year.
Geek Bar Chicago would join other geek locales in Milwaukee, Japan, the UK and Australia. Tony Nilles and his wife opened their own geek bar in Milwaukee this spring, and although he stresses it’s not a “get rich quick” scheme, a geek bar draws good customers. He says his staff has worked at many other bars before, and they have all been impressed by how nice the customers are. He attributes that partly to being a geek.
“You have a demographic where if they go to other bars and clubs, they don’t feel comfortable, they feel like they are an outsider or outcast,” Nilles said. “When you get them around other people that are just like them, they feel this sense of belonging and you find that you have these really nice, kind people that are able to express in ways they weren’t able before.”
In fact, even though he knows other geek bars are his competitors, they’re all just excited to be part of a movement.
“We’re all competing with each other over the same demographic, but there’s almost kind of a brotherhood to this owning a geek bar thing,” Nilles said. “Geek is chic right now, and they want to know that you’re not just doing the whole geek thing in order to take their money from them. They want to know that you’re doing it sincerely and that you’re part of that community too.”
Mitch Hutts, web developer by day and geek mixologist by night, has also seen the rise of the geek bar. In 2009, he started The Drunken Moogle, dedicated to sharing geeky drink recipes inspired by the likes of Gears of War, Final Fantasy, Star Wars and the Lord of the Rings. He says it has since exploded in popularity, and that the geek bar phenomenon is entirely worldwide.
“You know this was a place made by people who think like you, and it’s very much like you already kind of knew those people, you feel very much at home,” Hutts said. “Some success can be attributed to conventions. Geeks very much like meeting new geeks. Conventions happen once a year; geek bars are a way of extending that and giving them a home all throughout the year.”
Alan Yu is a WBEZ metro desk intern. Follow him @Alan_Yu039