A sports bar it is not: St. John's geek community gets a downtown pub, and then some

Heather Barrett/CBC

Jerry Burt wanted to create a space where so-called geeks and nerds could leave the forbidden forest and bring their Dungeons and Dragons campaigns downtown.

Each year, he'd see more than 2,000 people gathered for Sci-Fi on the Rock, Newfoundland and Labrador's largest convention of its kind, and lament how some friends only saw each other one weekend a year.

"That's why we're doing this place, so we don't see each other three days out of the entire year," he said from inside his new bar, Geeks Public House. 

"We can see each other 365 days out of the entire year."

'Geek-themed sports bar'

Burt has launched Geeks Public House, on the corner of Duckworth Street and Cathedral Street in downtown St. John's, in the space formerly occupied by the Reluctant Chef restaurant and its stylish pub, the Vinyl Room. 

 Burt's revamped space offers a new twist on the traditional sports bar — where you won't see the Super Bowl on the big screen, but you might see a Pokemon tournament.

Heather Barrett/CBC

"When you look around town, we didn't really have a space," he said. 

"There were lots of sports bars, and lots of general bars and restaurants and whatever. So the idea of this just stemmed from a geek-themed sports bar."

You'll notice there are no VLTs ... I refuse to have them here. - Jerry Burt

The term "geek" covers many different types of fandom, Burt explained, from movies and books, to board games and video games.

Geeks Public House will try to have something for everyone, and will have space for people to bring whatever they want and enjoy it as if it was their own home.

"It doesn't matter what you're into," he said. 

"When you come into this building, everybody has a shared appreciation for these fandoms."

Burt said a woman came in with a blanket, sat on a couch upstairs and knitted while watching TV.

No VLTs or big drinkers, so where's the money?

The space is a renovated heritage home, with the bar on the main floor and several rooms upstairs for things like Dungeons and Dragons campaigns and playing board games.

Burt doesn't expect to make money the way a typical bar does. He said lots of people in his circle of friends don't drink, and those who do are not big drinkers.

Heather Barrett/CBC

Instead, he hopes to make a profit from hosting events and renting out the space.

"You'll notice there are no VLTs," he said. "It was suggested to me right from the start. I refused to have them here. I don't care. I don't think they're a positive influence on society. We're going to find a way to make this work without doing the typical, what everybody else is doing."

Burt said he's already been approached about hosting two weddings, and a craft show for the fall.

It might be unconventional, but Burt said the community of so-called geeks will make sure it works.

"They're open to all sorts of things, just because they want their space to exist."

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