by Ashley Stapleton, Game Writer
On November 30, much to the Georgia gaming community’s delight, the Sandy Springs–based Battle & Brew reopened after unexpectedly closing down earlier that month. For years the geek-themed restaurant and bar entertained customers with in-house gaming, cosplay nights, and cutthroat trivia. It was a rare, special place where you could order Star Trek–themed pizza or Warhammer-themed drinks, visit the “bigger on the inside” TARDIS bathroom, and enjoy the best of both classic and current-gen PC and console gaming. Not only was Battle & Brew a hot spot for gamers and other enthusiasts, it was also a favored place for GGDA members, as well as a place where game designers could watch their players in action. Their business model allowed for a truly unique atmosphere and created an unforgettable experience.
Unfortunately, all of that came to an end when the restaurant announced they would be closing in a matter of days. No reasons were given. The community was equal parts alarmed and devastated, but it wasn’t long before some reached out with offers to purchase the restaurant and keep Battle & Brew alive. Fortunately, one offer went through.
I was recently able to speak with Ben Izzaguire, one of four new owners, for a behind-the-scenes look at the new Battle & Brew: what happened, what’s changed, and what we can look forward to from here on out.
Before we get started, can you tell me a little about yourself and what your role with Battle & Brew is going to be?
I have been a gamer since as long as I can remember. When I was in middle school, I built out computers and helped my son build computers, and played games that we built those computers with. When I went to college I kind of fell off the gaming scene, per se, for lack of bandwidth issues before we had hardcore bandwidth at colleges. Just kinda got into it again after college and focused on work for a little bit. There are a couple partners and I who visited Battle & Brew, and we were really interested in the business idea. And then a month and a half, two months later, [we] found out that they were closing, and we put in an offer for it, and thankfully we won it. . . . What my role will be, I mean, it’s primarily just ownership. . . . We’re just making sure operations run relatively smoothly. We hired a GM who will be doing the day-to-day operations. It’d probably be my job and other people’s job to oversee those from an ownership perspective, but . . . another way that I’d be delving into with another one of my partners is looking into gaming partnerships so that we can build out the gaming community a little bit more at Battle & Brew.
What kind of partnerships would these be? That sounds interesting.
You know, that’s still to be determined, really, to see how they fashion themselves out. . . . Electronic sports leagues are really picking up, and it seems like there might be opportunity to maybe do some more competitive gaming at Battle & Brew and potentially build—I struggle with the vernacular, the jargon that it might be in this industry—maybe just like minor-league teams that will eventually grow that we can foster and support to thrive in the gaming community in the Southeast.
Let’s just go ahead and shoot down the conspiracy theories that have been floating around. Was this some nefarious marketing ploy to boost sales for Battle & Brew?
No. It’s a completely new ownership. . . . It’s good to hear that people are asking that, but it’s definitely not true. It’s a complete change in ownership. We’re four new partners, as opposed to the previous one. . . . That being said, we’re working to make sure that we’re making it a better experience for everybody.
Is there anything you can say to shed some light on why Battle & Brew closed in the first place? I know a lot of people have been curious.
No, not necessarily. I think that was something . . . they had to keep close to chest. . . . Anything else that I found out outside of them is not for me to say. So I’ll stick with whatever they release to the public, which was a mix of personal and financial reasons.
So it seems like it was a private matter, and you just want to respect that and respect their privacy there.
Yeah, I think respect is key in any category. It’s unfortunate when people are disrespectful.
Can you tell us what we can expect to stay the same? What are you going to keep or prioritize keeping of that classic Battle & Brew spirit?
So the gaming experience will be kept, it will just be amplified. . . . To be honest, it’s really just additional TVs and new gaming consoles, which include the [Nintendo] Switch. . . . Pretty much everything will remain the same. What we heard the biggest complaints were, were service and the gaming experience, and then there’s a smattering of food complaints in there as well. We really wanted to focus on the service piece, because we know if we’re not treating everybody well, people aren’t going to come back.
What would you say you’re prioritizing in this retraining, and what kind of experience do you want people to receive when they come in?
First and foremost, I’m very confident that our staff has the ability to relate with the geek and nerd community and to serve really well. I think if any of us had somebody tell them they would potentially lose their job in the next couple of months . . . their steam would probably go down, and that may cause problems. To that note, I know that there are additional complaints prior to that period, and we’ve really sat down with Nate Sanders, the GM, and really had a good conversation between the owners and him on how we can improve. . . . [We want] to make sure we keep a positive attitude, that we reduce wait times, that we make sure people aren’t overworked. . . . I think that’s one thing I learned and the rest of the owners learned: we need to make sure we’re positive as we go through things so the staff remains happy, so that you don’t repeat something that may have been internal turmoil before because of whatever issues happened in the past with Battle & Brew. I think everybody was just truly frustrated. . . . We’re hoping that everybody can come together as a cohesive family and make everybody’s experience at Battle & Brew that much better.
You mentioned the original GM, Nate Sanders is coming back, and a lot of people are excited about this. Who approached who in regard to that decision?
We were interviewing different GMs that had come through friendly references, and one of the partners knew somebody that knew him, and then it turns out that I knew somebody that knew him. . . . What to me stuck out was his experience in training for larger corporate organizations, which is something that seemed was purely needed in terms of leadership and vision internally. And so we approached him, and . . . it became apparent that he would probably be a good fit for the organization.
I feel almost obligated to ask this because of the number of times it’s popped up in the news feed, but are there any plans as of yet to bring the tater tots back?
Absolutely. . . . That’s something I was disappointed not seeing on the menu when I came back a couple times later. . . . Hopefully we will have some twists in what tater tots we will offer sometime soon. Like currently we’re going to be doing a loaded tater tot and maybe even doing some different variations of tater tots in the future as well.
Did you have any final remarks, or anything that you’d like to add that we haven’t covered already?
We’re just trying our best to do the best for the community and improve that experience.