Phoenix Nerd Bar Bonus Round Has Closed

There's no more geeky fun to be had at Bonus Round.
There's no more geeky fun to be had at Bonus Round. James Goshow
Game over for Bonus Round in central Phoenix: The geek hangout and arcade bar on Camelback Road has closed after four years of serving up nerd-themed cocktails, cosplay events, and arcade action.

Owner Nick Lewis says they’ve sold off all the games, removed all the geeky art that lined the walls, and turned over almost everything else of value to their bank, including the liquor license.

“It's almost an empty building at this point, and I’ve been wrapping up everything,” Lewis says. “I just handed over the keys to the place last week, so it's as officially over as it can be right now.”

Lewis says they’ve been in the process of shutting down Bonus Round since deciding to close back in September. Like many other local bars that have gone belly up over the last six months, it's closing because of the pandemic.

“It's felt like we’ve been watching a slow car crash that's been happening for months,” he says. “Things were going good before the pandemic. We were turning a profit and making more when compared to the previous year, but then everything just stopped.”

Bonus Round closed in March after stay-at-home orders were issued by Arizona Governor Doug Ducey. Lewis says they reopened “for about a week” in June and began offering food and drink orders to go, but it wasn’t enough. (“Obviously, it's hard to make the arcade experience to-go,” he says.)

Lewis says Bonus Round’s management and staff initially hoped to weather the pandemic, but bills were piling up and the bar’s lease was ending in October, leading them to pull the plug.

"It's been torture not knowing if we were going to survive this," Lewis says. "It just really dragged along ... We were so far behind [and] it didn't seem like a safe decision to start up a new lease under these current circumstances.”

Lewis rules out any hope of reviving Bonus Round at a new spot in the future.

"While I'd like for something to happen again, it'd have to be under a new liquor license and new equipment and a new location,” he says. “We'd basically be starting from scratch.”

Bonus Round was opened in May 2016 by locals James Goshow and Jacob Rendel. It quickly became a hub for the Phoenix geek scene, offering a collection of modern and old-school arcade games (all set to free play), as well as home consoles and games of the board, card, tabletop, and party variety. Owners encouraged meetups by local geek groups and hosted events like trivia nights, comedy sessions, and dance parties.

Lewis, who took over Bonus Round in 2017 after Goshow and Rendel pursued other interests, says they tried to set it apart from places like Cobra Arcade Bar.

"We always tried to define ourselves as a 'nerd bar' as opposed to an arcade, so we wanted it to be more about having a bunch of nerdy things, like tabletop games,” Lewis says. “We wanted to have space to explore whatever sort of passions and hobbies people could come and share and enjoy with everyone.”

Lewis says that while he’s bummed to see Bonus Round close, he’s come to accept it.

“I’ve [run] through the gamut of emotions with it happening," he says. "And while I'm still pretty sad and depressed about it, at this point, everyone involved with [Bonus Round] has moved on to new things.”
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Benjamin Leatherman is a staff writer at Phoenix New Times. He covers local nightlife, music, culture, geekery, and fringe pursuits.