How the owners of Bonus Round Game Café put the pieces of their dream into play

Drew teaches games

By Andy Graham
Medill Reports

For many Chicagoans, work and play are two separate concepts. They power through their workday so that they can return to their homes and unwind. However, for the owners of Bonus Round Game Café in Lakeview, work and play go hand in hand.

Husband and wife team Drew Lovell and Courtney Hartley came up with the idea for Bonus Round Game Café on North Clark Street in 2016, as a way of combining their joint passion for board games with Lovell’s dream of running his own business.

A year after its grand opening in early 2018, the café is now a full-service restaurant that offers an array of sandwiches, coffee and alcohol, along with some 300 board games that line shelves in the dining area. Its staff members boast in-depth knowledge of the games and are happy to offer to teach those unfamiliar with the rules.

The café also emphasizes accessibility. “Board games are for everyone,” Hartley said.

With many regular customers dropping by on a weekly basis, the co-owning couple is not only seeing financial success, they’re also seeing a surge in new exposure for their personal hobby. And they try to turn newcomers into regulars through their helpful approach to the games.

“It’s safe for you to not know board games while you’re here,” Hartley said. “We are a non-threatening, non-intimidating space for people to come, regardless of experience.”

Photo at top: Drew Lovell, co-founder of Bonus Round Game Cafe,  recommends games for customers and teaches how to play them. (Andy Graham/MEDILL)