Gamers of the Valley, rejoice. Geek-friendly bar Endgame has reopened at its new spot in Mesa, more than four years after pulling the plug on its original location back in 2016.
Owner Ryan Scott says it's been a long road to get the game bar up and running again, including numerous delays, false starts, and frustrating experiences.
“Endgame’s reopening has almost become a meme at this point,” he says. “We’ve been telling people, ‘We’re going to be coming back soon, guys,’ for over four years now. And now that we're legit open again, people have been coming in to check things out.”
Scott says Endgame’s new home, a massive restaurant space at Alma School Road and Southern Avenue, is a major upgrade from its first location on Mill Avenue in Tempe. The two-story, 15,000-square-foot property features an enormous main room, dance floor, seating areas, and space for dozens of home consoles and PCs where patrons can get their game on.
Scott says Endgame’s staff spent the last year and a few hundred thousand dollars renovating the property, which previously housed an America’s Cheesecake Cafe in the early 2000s.
“We’ve updated pretty much everything,” he says. “We painted the entire place, redid all the floors, installed new furniture, expanded the bar, updated the lighting, and [built] a bunch of countertops around the place for all our systems.”
Endgame has plenty of those, ranging from such classic consoles as the NES and Sega Genesis to modern gaming systems like the PlayStation 4 and Xbox One. (He's hoping to get a PlayStation 5 after its debut next month.) Each is hooked up to HD screens that ring its 8,000-square-foot main room.
Endgame's fans turned out to play these systems, as well as sample its menu of geek-themed food and drink selections, during three “beta stress test” events that took place last month.
“I’m pretty sure a big part of it was just curiosity, like, ‘Alright, let's see what four years of work looks like,’” Scott says. “A lot of people that have come in have been [longtime patrons] that wanted the same atmosphere that the old Endgame had. They’ve been patient [with] everything we’ve been through in the last four years.”
So has Scott, who has endured many ups and downs while trying to reboot Endgame. After closing the game bar’s first location at Tempe’s Brickyard building in 2016 after disagreements with Arizona State University, the property’s owner, Scott originally hoped to reopen at a new location within months.
It stretched into years after multiple attempts to lease spaces around Tempe fell through because of various issues, Scott says, such as getting ghosted by potential investors or having bad experiences with real estate agents.
“It’s all been a big learning experience,” he says. “Every place we found taught me about what I was looking for in a venue and all the [potential] pitfalls, like making sure there's enough parking for my occupancy before signing a lease.”
Scott secured Endgame’s current home in spring 2019 with a goal of reopening late last fall before delays with repairs to the property pushed things into the new year. Then, the pandemic hit, forcing Scott to press pause on his plans once again.
“When COVID happened, I was like, ‘Oh man, now this location dies. We finally get a place going and now it's about to go down the drain,’” Scott says. “We got lucky, though, since our lease didn’t officially begin until the landlord could finish [making repairs] in April.”
Endgame caught another break after Governor Doug Ducey shut down bars and restaurants statewide for most of the spring and summer. Scott cut a deal with his landlord to extend the rent-free grace period until Arizona allowed bars to reopen, which happened in late August.
In a lengthy post to Facebook in late September, Scott stated it’s now become a “do or die” situation for Endgame, forcing him to open the game bar as soon as possible.
“We are now liable for the full amount of our monthly rent, increasing our monthly expenditures by over [$10,000],” Scott wrote. “We’ve been struggling as-is, so [$25,000 to $30,000] a month is an impossibly unsustainable amount for us. We’re out of time.”
Scott’s earned criticism on social media for reopening during the pandemic. He defended the decision in his Facebook post, citing the fact that other local bars are operating (including game-friendly spots like Electric Bat in Tempe and Gilbert’s Level 1 Arcade Bar).
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Scott also told Phoenix New Times the bar will be following safety guidelines outlined by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Arizona Department of Health Services, such as operating at less than 50 percent of its capacity or requiring social distancing. Peripherals, games, and other touch-points will also be sanitized between uses.
“We've got sanitizer stations, we've got gloves and masks for whoever needs them, and everything is being [cleaned] constantly,” Scott says. “You tell us what you want [to play], our staff will bring them out, and once you’re done, we take it all back, sanitize everything, and repeat the whole cycle for the next customer.”
Scott says he wants to keep things safe enough at the bar that Endgame’s customers feel comfortable enough to visit. He plans to expand to other areas and, once the pandemic abates, eventually host live music and dance parties similar to what was offered at the bar’s original home.
“I know a lot of customers that also feel similar in like, they need Endgame back this in their life,” Scott says. “They need a place they can hang out with friends, play video games together, and have a good time, just like it was at the old Endgame.”