The rise of geek bars in Vancouver

Why it’s suddenly cool to be, well, uncool

February 29, 2016

By Max Fawcett

The meek might well inherit the earth one day, but for the time being it’s the geeks that are clearly in control. And while Star Wars, Marvel Comics franchise spinoffs, and other dork-friendly fare are crushing it at the box office, locally the surest proof that we’re approaching peak geek can be found in the transformation of the former location of The Academic, a Donnelly Group bar located at Broadway and Fir that catered to university students. That site has been reborn as the Storm Crow Alehouse, and it will add to the growing number of establishments in this city that aren’t shy about getting their geek on.

It’s owned by the same group behind the Storm Crow Tavern on Commercial Drive, a place that proudly celebrates the quirky and unique and in the process created a gathering place for people in this city who never had one before. Now, they’ll have a home on the west side, and it too will cater to those who would rather play Cards Against Humanity over a pint of beer than watch the Canucks game. Manager Sean Cranbury thinks it’s part of a growing shift in the attitude toward geek culture. “Is it on the rise?” he says. “I think it is.”

But while other hospitality groups might be tempted to cash in on the phenomenon, Cranbury says it’s not as easy as buying a few copies of Settlers of Catan and playing Dr.Who on the TV once in a while. “It’s kind of alchemy,” he says of Storm Crow’s success. “We’ve done a good job of making people feel comfortable and welcomed and understood, regardless of where they fall on the spectrum. The opinionated, austere super-nerd for whom nobody is nerdy enough is as much of a dick as the bro with the backward ball cap who walks in the door. In the early days of the Storm Crow it was a battle to weed those guys out—not the bros, but the guys who tried to take it over and turn it into their own personal basement of misery. We managed to do that, and somewhere along the way it became this comfortable place where everybody could hang out and just play some games and be nerds.”

Keep reading: Why the Storm Crow doesn’t (and won’t ever) show sports

Vancouver’s Geek Bars

Storm Crow Alehouse
1619 W. Broadway Ave.
604-428-9670
stormcrow.com
The jury’s still out on whether it’ll be better, but with twice the licensed capacity and more than three times as many beer taps the new location is certainly bigger. 

Storm Crow Tavern
1305 Commercial Dr.
604-566-9669
stormcrowtavern.com
West siders will almost certainly flock to the new location, but there’s nothing wrong with version 1.0.

EXP Restaurant + Bar
309 W. Pender St.
604-558-1337
expbar.ca
Particularly popular for private group functions, where the city’s arcane liquor laws won’t get in the way of drinking and gaming.

Pizzeria Ludica
189 Keefer Pl.
604-669-5552
ludica.ca
Show up here on a Wednesday with a group of four or more, win your game of choice and you get a free pizza for your efforts. Talk about a win-win.

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