EAT AND DRINK LIKE A WIZ­ARD

Way­point 6 Tav­ern & Geek­ery in Largo caters to fans of sci-fi and su­per­heroes.

Tampa Bay Times - - Front Page - BY CHRISTO­PHER SPATA Times Staff Writer

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.”

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.

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 on 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.”

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.

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

“One night a bunch of peo­ple atthe­bar­watched Shark­nado 5 with the sound down, crack­ing jokes the whole time,” said coowner 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 its 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 andWizardry.

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 biteafter­a­dayof 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.”

Photos by DIRK SHADD | Times

DIRK SHADD | Times

Travis Veal, and his wife, Chelsey Veal, on va­ca­tion from Knoxville, Tenn., pe­ruse the menu with its sci-fi ref­er­ences. They heard about Way­point 6 Tav­ern & Geek­ery through a Face­book group.

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