Rook & Rogue Board Game Pub
Something new has arrived in downtown Bellingham.
It’s not a cafe, not a bar, nor is it a restaurant or gaming lounge. It’s all of those things combined. Rook & Rogue is a board game pub and restaurant, and has all the elements to make you feel at home. Rook & Rogue is family-owned. Danielle Rupinski and her mother, Pam, her sister, Laura, and partner, Shawn Blake, all play leadership roles in the restaurant. The crew wanted to provide a spot for gathering, eating, drinking, being merry and playing games all in one place.
Rook & Rogue has more than 1,200 board games in its library with three levels: casual, hobby, and grail. Out of those 1,200, 400 are played regularly, owner Shawn Blake said, and those 400 are mostly casual games.
The most popular games in the library are nostalgia games like Battleship, Connect Four, Scrabble and The Oregon Trail Card Game. Blake said the team thinks critically about which games to add, because the shelves can only fit around 1,200 games. “Distributors aren’t going to stop making games,” he said. “Every game earns its space. It’s a balancing act.”
Rook separates itself from other board-game cafes by also operating as a full-service restaurant and bar. However, it does not have the same turnover rate as a regular restaurant, meaning on busy nights, customers can expect wait times. Games can last from a half-hour up to four hours or more, depending on the group.
“It takes time to figure out where people are at in the evening and we don’t want to push people out,” Blake said. “We didn’t want to make a minimum or maximum time limit. We want people to feel comfortable.”
In order to eliminate a fee, Rook & Rogue has implemented membership levels. There are the free-to-play casual games, a Hobby membership for $5 a month, or a Grail membership for $10 a month. The Hobby membership gives access to more hobby games, the Grail membership gives access to every game in the collection, and all paid memberships come with reservation privileges.
“There is no door or table fee at Rook & Rogue, that’s something we always knew,” Blake said.
The folks at Rook & Rogue hope to continue adding new features, like a call service button for tables so waiters don’t interrupt a good game, private party rooms, and a larger retail presence. But at its core, Rook & Rogue is about connecting in a non-tech, traditional way.
“Life only gets more and more hectic,” Blake said.
“Technology and smartphones are designed to connect us, but there’s some questions about what they give back.” Sitting around a table, playing games and enjoying a meal together, allows friends to share face time together — actual face time — and get to know each other in a new way. Blake said even the conversations we have on a daily basis can become routine. “Board games introduce a new element into the mix.”