With rows of board games prominently displayed on the shelves, a new community space recently opened in downtown Mountain View and aims to bring people together over casual food, drinks and tableside entertainment.
Next Level Board Game Cafe launched as the latest addition to the Bay Area gaming scene, where, for a $7 entry fee, players can hang out with friends and family, learn new games and play their old favorites.
Located off Villa and Bryant streets, across from Stein’s, the games cafe opened two weeks ago, with more than 200 games available for customers. The catering part of the business is still under construction.
“There are gaming cafes in San Francisco, Berkeley and San Jose, but not many on the Peninsula,” said Rebecca Wang, a Los Altos native who developed the business concept with her husband, Sean Forman.
The couple chose Mountain View for its close-knit community atmosphere and the opportunity to offer something new. “There is nothing like this here,” Wang said, adding that they have already received an enthusiastic response from customers.
With the nominal admission price, guests can stay as long as they wish and try their hand at a carefully curated selection of games. As part of the experience, staff will greet customers at the door and offer to teach them new games.
But not just for novice players, Next Level is also aimed at those with more experience. “We have players who like to test a game before buying it,” Wang said, noting that some of the largest and most complex games can cost a few hundred dollars.
Always looking for new ideas, Wang and Forman set up a whiteboard at the front of the cafe, which is already full of game suggestions from customers. They have also fielded requests for meet-up events, where individual players can get to know other players. And there is also the option to reserve private game rooms for larger groups.
Community building is a big part of their motivation for opening the store, they said.
But getting the store off the ground was a real challenge. The permits took longer than expected, Forman said, noting that it took about four months each to get the county permit and planning permit, or eight months total. They are currently working on the building permit. “Everything is moving pretty slowly,” he said.
The games and tables are ready for players to use, while the restaurant portion of Next Level is under construction. Once complete, the cafe will offer paninis, rice bowls and salads, as well as drinks including wine and beer options.
“We’re really excited about this next step,” Wang said, adding that the grand opening will coincide with the completion of the cafe, at which point they will extend the store’s hours and also hire more staff.
For now, Wang and Forman run the game cafe, working around their day jobs.
Next Level Board Game Cafe, located at 888 Villa St., is open Thursday and Friday evenings from 5 p.m. to 10 p.m., and Saturday and Sunday from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m.