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 Kyle Nazario
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Gaming Bars Play Kickstarter for Funding

Gaming Bars Play Kickstarter for Funding
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If Ryan Thauburn and Jonathan Niess succeed, Houston’s downtown scene will have two more levels to master.

Both men are running crowdfunding campaigns for video game-themed bars. We’re talking establishments centered entirely around video games, not just a dive with 8-bit wallpaper.

“The only things I’ve ever wanted to do in life are comedy, video games and drinking,” Thauburn said. “If I can do two out of three of those, I feel like I’m still winning.”

Thauburn wants to open Press Start, a bar across from Neil’s centered around console games.

Niess shows similar passion for his proposed bar, Warlocks Games and Beer. He and a friend decided to chase a dream and build a bar on Milby Street for all kinds of gaming.

“It ended up becoming just the perfect idea for us,” Niess said.

Niess and Thauburn have intricate plans and passion for giving Houston gamers a place to socialize and drink. However, their campaigns are struggling.

Trouble Launching

As of writing, Thauburn’s Kickstarter has collected $6,125 of its $50,000 goal with six days left. Niess has collected $1,881 of his $40,000 goal, though he has 39 days left and can keep his funds from Indiegogo.

Both men are realistic about falling short of their goals, citing publicity as an important objective.

“It’s as much about the publicity and the people seeing it as it is about actually raising,” Thauburn said.

He said the campaign has attracted attention from potential investors who could help make Press Start a reality. Even if his campaign fails, the publicity will be valuable.

“Indiegogo gives us our only source of funding at the moment,” Niess said. “We have other options for funding, but we felt like this was the right way to let people know about it.”

Panelists discussing Kickstarter at Comicpalooza said something similar.

“If you do happen to have a failure the first time, that could turn out to be a blessing,” said Eric Calderon, whose failed initial campaign for the Sebbo bought him the publicity for a successful second attempt. “It’s kind of a way of building a community.”

A Community Worth Building

Niess and Thauburn want to build up the same community, albeit with slightly different audiences.

Warlocks will feature video games, tabletop RPGs, and board games. It aims for a wider experience than its competitors. Niess even wants to bring in smaller games from schools and independent developers.

Niess will also brew Warlocks’s craft beer on site.

Press Start will feature straight console games and mixed drinks.

“I’m focusing really hard on a mixology type of bar with a lounge, with purely video games stuff,” Thauburn said.

Neither man sees themselves as competing with previous gaming-focused bars like Neil’s. They’re more focused on building up the Houston gamer social scene. Thauburn and Niess both brought up the idea of a gaming-themed pub crawl between Neil’s, Press Start and Warlocks.

“We’re actually focusing a lot on trying to develop the community as a whole,” Niess said.

Waiting Game

The fate of Press Start and Warlocks is still up in the air. Their Kickstarter and Indiegogo campaigns are still running. Niess and Thauburn are looking for additional investors.

Most of all, they still need to run the local government’s gauntlet. Nothing gets built until it’s approved by the city. Opening a bar can take up to six months.

Thauburn hopes Press Start will open by early 2024.

“Even if you’re working with people who know what they’re doing, it takes, I’m told, a minimum of two-three months,” he said.

Niess has to wait even longer for a brewing permit. He said it took Brews Brothers a year to get their license.

“The city is really weird about permitting breweries,” Niess said. “They’re just really anal about it.”

Either way, he hopes to open his doors by March 2024. With any luck, Warlocks and Press Start could be just the power-up Houston’s gamers need.


One Response to Gaming Bars Play Kickstarter for Funding

  1. soManyLevels June 7, 2024 at 7:58 pm

    Why haven’t these places happened yet? People are always talking about how boring and paint-by-the-numbers Houston is, but no one was really making an effort to make it more geek friendly until recently. And why not? The business of Houston runs on IT. These are the bars and venues that we deserve.

    I’m going to back you guys just a soon as my paycheck comes in.

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