Wednesday, September 26, 2018
Dining

Tampa Bay's first geek bar is for Star Trek and Harry Potter, not the NFL

LARGO — It happened not long after Tampa Bay's first "geek bar" opened its doors. Someone, perhaps one of the guys who frequented the Irish pub that used to be there, asked the question the new owners knew was coming: "Can you put the game on?"

Owner Kevin Daniels politely declined. Then he printed a sign — call it the bar's spiritual mission statement — and taped it to the front door.

"Please be advised ... Waypoint 6 Tavern & Geekery was designed by geeks for geeks to enjoy all of their geeky delights," it read. "We will not be showing sports unless it is BattleBots, drone racing or quidditch. There are over eighty-seven sports bars in this area to choose from, but only one geekery."

 

Courtesy of Kevin Daniels

This sign placed in the window of Waypoint 6 Tavern and Geekery telling customers that the bar and restaurant does not show traditional sports attracted attention online far beyond Florida.

 

When the Largo bar and restaurant posted a photo of that sign to its fledgling Facebook following, it was shared so widely that more than 700,000 people saw it. Delighted responses came from as far as California, England and Australia, many echoing a similar response: "We need one of those here!"

In an era when comic conventions draw massive crowds and superhero movies rule the box office, but bars are still mostly for watching football, a dedicated place for geek culture fans to convene apparently strikes a chord.

Geek-centric bars have been slowly cropping up around the U.S. for several years. In Florida, Waypoint 6 joins a small but growing trend that includes spots like Cloak & Blaster in Orlando and the Geek Easy in Winter Park. Bars dedicated to video games, another branch of the geek tree, are multiplying too. Lowry Parcade, which opened in 2015 in Tampa, has helped fill that niche.

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Waypoint 6, which opened in late July with a sign outside referencing Kevin Smith's cult classic Clerks ("I assure you, we're open"), is still developing. That's why they haven't yet laminated the menus featuring Fire Nation Wings (Avatar reference), Utini Poutini (Star Wars reference) or the Chocobo Sandwich (Final Fantasy reference).

And they're still coming up with events. In lieu of trivia, the bar hosts team Cards Against Humanity nights. On Thursday, there's a watch party for the premiere of CW's Supernatural, and there's already a "demon trap" on the ceiling.

Kevin Daniels, 46, jumped on the location off Ulmerton Road after a real estate agent named Bruce Swain showed it to him. He took the similarity of his name to Batman alter-ego Bruce Wayne as "a sign."

 

DIRK SHADD | Times

Stephanie Daniels, 38, daughter Kathryn Daniels, 18, and husband Kevin Daniels, 46, behind the bar with the Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry decor in the Harry Potter booth pictured in the background at Waypoint 6 Tavern & Geekery.

 

They didn't remodel, just took out the pool table and jukebox and stacked table games on the bar. A United Federation of Planets banner hangs in the window alongside a Gears of War flag. A Klingon bat'leth is mounted above the bar and Wolverine Vol. 1, numbers one through four are framed not far from the wooden sign reading "Prancing Pony," a tavern from The Hobbit.

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On the TVs one recent night: Star Trek: The Next Generation, Jurassic World and Witchslayer Gretl.

"One night a bunch of people at the bar watched Sharknado 5 with the sound down, cracking jokes the whole time," said co-owner and Kevin Daniels' wife Stephanie Daniels, 38. "It was like a live Mystery Science Theater in here."

The name involved a bit of world building. "Waypoint" is a reference to video games, but "we added the number six so you can imagine that maybe there others out there, scattered across the universe," Stephanie Daniels said.

Almost immediately, the place inspired locals who started showing up with geeky memorabilia and games they wanted to give to the bar. Gene Ellis, a professional butcher and leather crafter, brought in a tri-corner pirate hat and a banner he'd salvaged from the original Bay Area Renaissance Festival site in Largo.

"I thought it was a nice local connection to that side of our fandom," Ellis said. "This area has numerous table game centers, and stores for comics, all these places with a solid fan base and culture, but it's great to now have a place where everyone can get together. I love that if you go in and want to just order some drinks and play a game for a while, they're not chasing you out the door."

It's new territory for the owners. Kevin Daniels was a Kenneth City police officer for the past decade. Stephanie Daniels left behind her job doing marketing for a credit union after 12 years.

They first met during the Bay Area Renaissance Festival. He was directing the human combat chess match. She was a replacement pawn.

Their geekiness didn't line up perfectly; he's a huge Star Wars guy, a franchise she is "sort of meh" about. She was a moderator for a Lord of the Rings message board, while he doesn't really get down with Tolkien like that.

The crossover in the Venn diagram of their love?

"Harry Potter," said Stephanie, standing in front of a wall commemorating the houses of the Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry.

 

DIRK SHADD | Times

Various nerdy games rest on the corner of the bar at Waypoint 6 Tavern & Geekery.

 

Kevin's parents were the principal investors. Their nephew works the bar, serving up Blue Milk Jawa martinis and Cylon Raider cocktails. Their grown daughter is a chef in the kitchen.

Guests are encouraged to come to the restaurant in costume any time.

"A mother called us the other night asking, 'My 13-year-old daughter and her friends like to wear costumes. Not for Halloween, but just all the time. Is that okay?'," Kevin Daniels said. "I laughed and told her, of course that's okay. I think she was relieved to find this place."

One night last month, a large section was filled with dining Storm Troopers, stopping in after an event for the local chapter of the 501st Legion. More recently, it was several dozen robed and armored LARPers, grabbing a bite after a day of Rings-themed live action role playing.

On a recent Wednesday, a group of adults celebrating a birthday waged battle in the parking lot with swords made from balloons.

"We want to be like Chili's for nerds," Kevin Daniels said. "Except maybe don't have your kids here late when we're playing Cards Against Humanity. Be warned, that could lead to some awkward questions."

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