Inside one of the most popular bars in Vancouver, there’s no sports games playing on the TVs. There’s no top 40 playing over the speakers. If you walked in during the middle of the day like I have, before it is officially open for business, you might think you’d accidentally stumbled into a teenager’s basement circa 1978. Covering the walls are all manner of swords and ray guns, Battlestar Galactica posters, choose-your-own-adventure novels, and an enormous candle-lit obsidian relief of Cthulhu, the squid-faced elder god from H.P. Lovecraft’s horror stories.
The Storm Crow Tavern, Vancouver’s premier nerd-themed entertainment venue, is nestled on Commercial Drive between bakeries and coffee shops, and it just had its first birthday. It was opened in August 2012 by Martin Deyotte, who previously ran a music venue in Calgary Alberta, and has seen great success since.
I entered the bar early in the afternoon to meet front of house manager, Ryan Lick. But fittingly, he prefers to be called Epick. He offered me a drink, and led me to one of the thick wooden tables, where we sat down and start talking about the successes and struggles of proving that tabletop RPGs can fill a bar just as well as a hockey game.
Even with the lights low and the tables empty, The Storm Crow exudes a sense of comfort. The images of characters and worlds I have spent countless hours with look out at me from the walls. As I wait for Epick to pour a drink, my eyes fix on a sword that hangs on the wall; one I have pretended to swing many times. “I’m a knife and sword collector,” he says. “That’s one of my swords up there, it’s a Final Fantasy sword, I figured it would fare here better.”
Epick has worked at The Storm Crow for six months, but Deyotte opened it a year ago with help from his longtime friend Jason Kapalka. “Martin is the brainchild, so it’s all his idea,” says Epick. “He came up with the idea while working at an indie bar in Calgary. He was observing the hipsters all talking about nerdy stuff and he was like ‘well we should turn the whole nerd idea into a bar.’”
It turns out that Kapalka is the co-founder of PopCap Games, the mobile game juggernaut that’s been responsible for hits like Plants Vs. Zombies, Peggle, and Kapalka’s own invention, the company’s flagship title Bejeweled.
Despite being a game developer himself, Kapalka was less of a creative force for The Storm Crow. “Jason wasn’t just the financier,” Epick says. “Jason’s the one who orders everything that comes in here, all the stuff on the walls and stuff like that. Jason does all of our social media stuff. His knowledge of how to use media in the twenty first century has really allowed us to become the community bar that we are.”