Ottawa’s first board game cafe hopes to monopolize entertainment in the capital

August 22, 2012 5:18 pm

In the course of a typical day at work, David Narbaitz can be a real estate hot shot, military strategist and a duelling magician.

It’s easy to see why his resume can be so full when you walk into his store on Somerset Street. The rooms are mazes of board games, stacked high on shelves and even higher on the floor, some piles reaching nearly to the ceiling.

These board games, like Monopoly, Risk and Wiz-War, allow him a world of possibilities each and every day to be something or someone new.

And he wants everyone in Ottawa to feel the same way.

Armed with 600 different board games and counting, Narbaitz is opening up the capital’s first board game café, a place for the public to play board games, mingle, socialize, eat and drink.

Narbaitz is following in the footsteps of similar stores in other cities like Toronto, but his love of board games started more than a decade and a half ago.

“My love of board games started when I was 10 at summer camp,” says the 27-year-old Narbaitz.

“And originally it was just a hobby, but I realized it was an underappreciated hobby and I wanted more people to get involved. I just found that every time I introduced board games to people who didn’t know them they had a new outlook on them and they realized it was more fun than they thought.”

After years of board gaming, Narbaitz, an Ottawa native and graduate of the University of Ottawa’s engineering program, decided that the time was ripe for a board gaming business in the city.

“We knew that other places in Ottawa and around the world provide space for board gaming, like tables in a back room somewhere. But those spaces aren’t always the most inviting so we wanted to create a space that was inviting to everybody,” says Narbaitz about the vision that spurred his venture.

Monopolatte's owner David Narbaitz shows off his extensive board game collection.

And so began the long process of drawing together Monopolatte’s most valuable resource: board games.

Narbaitz had about 100 board games already in his collection before he began going to garage sales “like a madman” to build a gigantic library of games.

And now, a year, 500 board games and dozens bargain binges later he is ready to open his store.

But there are still a few snags. Narbaitz has had to delay the grand opening of Monopolatte for at least a couple weeks while he waits on a couple of city permits necessary for him to open shop in Centretown.

But the hurdles have not stopped Narbaitz from dreaming of a day when his café will be the social hub of Ottawa, challenging the bar scene and duking it out with high end coffee shops.

“(Monopolatte) is going to strike a really good balance between the bar scene, where people go to meet each other, but it’s often too loud to really talk to people, and the coffee shop scene where it’s almost taboo to talk to people,” says Narbaitz

“It’s going to be a really social environment where you can meet new people, but talk to them and with a little bit of a distraction in the games to make it easier on you.”

Narbaitz’s vision of a packed café on a Friday night faces a bigger enemy than the local bar scene and a couple drawn out permits. It has to line up in the race for attention beside the ever-growing influence of new technology and the entertainment opportunities it offers to all generations.

However, Narbaitz says that deep down people will never abandon what makes board games so great in the first place.

“I think people really yearn for even the chance that there is social interaction. You can invite two people over to your table to play board games with you and at the end you could have become good friends,” says Narbaitz.

Narbaitz has first-hand experience of the camaraderie board gaming can bring and what he hopes to achieve with Monopolatte.

“I’ve made hundreds of friends board gaming,” says Narbaitz, “I have some friends I met board gaming that are now mailing me games from Australia for the café. I’m hoping the store can be a place to meet life-long friends for others. That’s what board games can do.”

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