Brian Jacobson
Deep-Fried Romantic

Get ready for D&B

By - Feb 24th, 2010 01:16 am
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tosaDB

First, for the uninitiated: Dave & Buster’s (D&B) is a national chain restaurant akin to TGIFridays or Chuck E. Cheese, but specifically for grownups. The concept is something of a hybrid between tavern, sports bar, family eatery and carnival. In one room, there is an open dining area filled with large-screen TVs likely showing sporting events (imagine BW3). In the adjacent room, there is billiards (imagine south side staple Romine’s). In the third room, there is another open area filled with arcade games, like EA Sports NASCAR Racing, skeeball, air hockey, a virtual batting cage and virtual golf, plus assorted games of skill that garner tickets for prizes.

Seems simple enough, but one still has to wonder whether Milwaukeeans will get it. It’s not primarily intended for families, and definitely not a place for your 4-year-old’s birthday party. This is a place where adults can play whack-a-mole unencumbered by the frustrated cries of preschoolers fresh out of tokens.

My ruminations began when I thought about how starved the area is for family attractions and entertainment, and yet Dave & Buster’s is aimed at adults who want to relive childhood, if only for an evening. While the restaurant chain is open to the idea of family, its bread and butter functions are adult birthday celebrations, rehearsal dinners, bachelor parties and so on.

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Inside a Dave and Busters, from the website gallery.

But in Wisconsin, it is allowed on the books (see Pub. 302 of Wisconsin Alcohol Beverage and Tobacco Laws for Retailers, sec. XVII) to have a son or daughter with you at a bar – and to have them served. In fact, I would have gone crazy on family vacations up north if we weren’t allowed to play pinball in the bar on rainy days. However, my dad never bought me a beer, which is also allowed on the books (Ed. Note: for now, anyway. The State Senate recently passed a bill to prohibit minors from drinking in bars under any circumstances). And while it’s their right to set a policy either way, it’s unclear whether D&B will enforce a “no booze for minors” policy or go with current state law.

In all of the promotional pictures on the Have More Fun Wisconsin site, the “customers” are all adults. You carry around a little bucket (like at a casino) for tickets, and while employees are trained to card for IDs every time you order, you can still drink alcohol while walking around. At many D&B properties, minors are not allowed inside after 8 p.m. (To date, word from D&B had not come back as to whether the Wauwatosa location will do the same.)

DBsignStill, the whole venture appears to have been carefully considered by both Dave and Buster’s, Inc., and the City of Wauwatosa. In October of 2008, representatives from D&B sat in front of the Wauwatosa Planning Commission. Speaking for the lobbying party was D&B Senior Vice President Jeffrey C. Wood. The company did a lot of market research to find a feasible location for the first foray into Wisconsin (D&B currently has 57 U.S. locations). It was determined that a lot from the vacating Ewald car dealership would work, just spitting distance from the high-traffic but at times beleaguered Mayfair Mall.

The proposal for the restaurant came at the same time the mall and adjacent businesses tripled visible security in the large, crowded parking lot and began a PGR (Parental Guidance Required) policy inside the mall that requires under-21 shoppers to be accompanied by an adult after 3 p.m. on Fridays and Saturdays.

Needless to say, the planning commission had concerns about traffic and security for this new ‘big-box eatertainment’. The Common Council required many conditional-use amendments before D&B could begin construction and operation. Here is the final resolution list from the council’s minutes:

1. Anyone under the age of 21 must be accompanied by a guardian
2. Hours of operation 11 a.m. to 1 a.m. Sunday through Thursday and 11 a.m. to 1:30 a.m. Friday and Saturday
3. Obtaining the necessary licenses and permits
4. A required dress code specifying “neat and clean” attire
5. No smoking policy
6. Security plan with the Wauwatosa Police Department to meet the needs of the community subject to an ongoing review including at 60, 90, and 180 days
7. Compliance with the conditions identified by the DOT
8. Landscape plan including a fence along the adjacent property to the south
9. Approval of the signage plan by the Design Review Board
10. Parking plan addressing concerns with parking lot access and the need for overflow
11. Locating the building closer to the road

billiardsDB

It’s reported that D&B acquiesced and went even further; minors must be with someone age 25 or older and that adult can only bring up to six minors. Scheduled hours of operation will be 11:30 a.m. to 11 p.m. on Sundays through Thursdays and up to 1 a.m. on Friday and Saturdays — closer to the national model; however, some D&B locations are open until 2 a.m. The new location at 2201/2215 N. Mayfair Rd. is set to open on March 1.

One of the more interesting conditions on the council’s list has to be No. 4: A required dress code specifying “neat and clean” attire. How will this be enforced, and who was the Common Council targeting?

Also yet to be determined: parking and traffic flow. To take the pictures in this article, I got off Exit 42A to Mayfair Rd. then crossed three lanes of traffic almost immediately to make the median turn lane. Six days and counting, the lot’s still full of 10-foot snowbanks.

I’m not casting any early opinions on what will happen with this new location in Wisconsin (although Internet comment boards are rife with them);  I want to see what kind of consistent attention is given to all the potential issues first. In fact, I look forward to visiting, and polishing my pinball skills.

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