Grand Rapids’ House Rules sets the bar for board game lounges

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — The taps are officially open at Beer City USA’s first board game lounge.

House Rules Board Game Lounge is at 404 Ionia Ave. SW, in the ground level of Klingman Lofts, across from the Downtown Market.

(An April 8, 2021 photo shows House Rules Board Game Lounge in the ground floor of the former Klingman’s Furniture building on Ionia Avenue SW in Grand Rapids.)

The business gives board game lovers a space to play games they brought, borrowed or bought at House Rules, all while enjoying a snack or drink from the in-house bar or coolers.

Co-owner Brian Beaucher says it’s the first business of its kind in West Michigan.

“I’ve been a board gamer for 25 years and I think Grand Rapids needs it. There are plenty of game stores in the area but there hasn’t been a board game lounge yet. And I’ve seen it succeed in other cities, so why not bring it to Grand Rapids?” Beaucher asked.

The owners of House Rules previously operated Craft Beer Cellar in the same space, but shifted to this new concept late last year, replacing shelves of bottled beer with a 20-tap bar, tables, hundreds of games to buy and a Lounge Library with about 200 games to try.

(Hundreds of games line the shelves of the Lounge Library at House Rules Board Game Lounge, located on Ionia Avenue SW in Grand Rapids.)

Colorful symbols of inclusivity are on display throughout the business.

“Being downtown we celebrate equality among everyone, so we proudly hang the Pride flag, trans flag, have the rainbow (lights) going behind the bar. Just with everything that’s been going on in the past couple years, this is a safe place for everybody,” Beaucher said.

(Coolers filled with alcoholic and non-alcoholic drinks await customers of House Rules Board Game Lounge, located on Ionia Avenue SW in Grand Rapids.)

BOARD GAME BOOM

Because of COVID-19 restrictions, House Rules opened first as a board game retailer in mid-December. The business added bar service last month after receiving its liquor license, but has had to limit reservations to four tables of up to six people because pandemic capacity limits.

While COVID-19 has created challenges, it has also been a boon for board games.

“I’ve just heard things in the community that games are harder to get, they’ve been selling out and it make sense. It’s a great thing to do at home while you’re stuck at home,” Beaucher said.

(An April 8, 2021 photo shows some of the board games available for play in House Rules Board Game Lounge’s Lounge Library.)

Board game giant Hasbro reported a 20% uptick in third quarter sales and Mattel said data from The NPD Group showed a 48% jump in game sales, according to a TODAY show report.

Beaucher says there’s more business potential as the pandemic turns a corner.

“I know people that have really wanted to get out and enjoy these games with other people and as it’s getting safer to do that, this is a place where you can go,” Beaucher said. “It’s an excuse to bring friends together, and it’s fun.”

THE RULES OF HOUSE RULES

To keep House Rules running and the Lounge Library free, each customer at a table must spend at least $10 in the form of food, drinks or games.

(An April 8, 2021 photo shows the interior of House Rules Board Game Lounge at 404 Ionia Ave. SW in Grand Rapids.)

While table reservations are for up to four hours, customers can stay and play longer if there’s no reservation after theirs. Beaucher said some groups have spent nearly eight hours at House Rules.

“We’re super flexible at trying to give people a long time to hang out and play a good long game,” he said.

He said that’s one of the ways House Rules differs from other businesses:

“While you can game in other bars or breweries, we embrace that you might be… here for a long time and we’re OK with that.”

(An Atari game console rests on a barrel at House Rules Board Game Lounge on Ionia Avenue SW in Grand Rapids.)

House Rules plans to add to that experience by firing up Atari and other gaming consoles for play, once visitors can safely stand in small groups without wearing masks.

For now, visitors are asked to remain masked when they’re moving around, wash or sanitize their hands frequently and practice social distancing.

(Instructions posted on tables at House Rules Board Game Lounge explains health and safety guidelines during the COVID-19 pandemic.)

ON THE MENU

From soft pretzels baked by Field & Fire to Dorothy & Tony’s gourmet popcorn and nitro coffee, tea and soda from Alt City Beverage, the menu at House Rules is a nod to its neighbor across the street.

(An undated photo provided by Downtown Market Grand Rapids shows Dorothy and Tony’s Gourmet Popcorn.)

“The Downtown Market is awesome and we try to do as much business from there as possible. So, it’s support local as much as we can,” Beaucher said.

The bar focuses on craft beverages primarily made in Michigan, with beer, wine, cider and sometimes mead flowing from its 20 taps. Beaucher said half of the drinks in the cooler are non-alcoholic and include pop, juice and CBD seltzer water.

(Employees of House Rules Board Game Lounge prepare the bar for business Thursday April 8, 2021.)

Because the business is in a city Social Zone, House Rules plans to eventually offer beer and cocktails in to-go cups.

House Rules is currently open 2 p.m. to 10 p.m. Tuesday through Thursday, 2 p.m. to 11 p.m. Friday, and noon to 11 p.m. Saturday. The business plans to open seven days a week as soon as its new staff is fully trained.

“Everyone who works here is super nerdy, gaming-focused and we will help you learn a game… want to experience the game with you,” Beaucher said. “We get just as excited as everyone who comes in.”

(Customers purchase a game at House Rules Board Game Lounge, located at 404 Ionia Ave. SW in Grand Rapids.)

Fans can also shop at House Rules online at https://www.houseruleslounge.com/ and pick up their order in store or get it delivered for $5. The website also lists all games in the Lounge Library.