West Side Stories

A Tosa resident for almost 20 years, Karen is a mom and freelance writer, addicted to playing tennis. When not on the tennis court, she spends the fall and winter in the stands at Green Bay Packer and Marquette basketball games.

Karen is the author of “Grab a Bite,” a dining out column and the former community columnist for the Wauwatosa NOW newspaper.

Dave & Buster's Opens a New Location and a Can of Worms

Tosa Business, Restaurants, Mayfair, Neighborhood

It’s difficult to explain to people what Dave & Buster’s is. Their tagline is “Eat, Drink, Play” which is pretty accurate for a business that is part restaurant, part bar and part arcade. I visited the new Dave & Busters at 2201 N. Mayfair Road on a Thursday night, just days after its grand opening. Overheard on that night, was this exchange:

Little Boy: Is this Chuck E. Cheese?
Mom: No. Chuck E. Cheese is dead.

Of course Chuck E. Cheese is not dead, but Dave & Buster’s, the Dallas-based restaurant and entertainment chain, has gone a long way toward eclipsing the popularity of Chuck E. Cheese. The question on everyone’s mind lately, is whether it will do so with or without controversy.

Our visit to D & B was early on a Thursday evening during its first week of business. We barely waited for a table, but did experience a few service “hiccups” while waiting for our food. Speaking of the food, it’s unremarkable, but honestly, nobody is there for that alone. What was nice was the fact that the dining area is separate from the bar and the gaming area, unlike the Gameworks chain we had visited years ago.

My understanding of Dave & Buster’s is that it is definitely more adult-oriented. Since my husband and I were there with our 18 year-old daughter and her two friends, we had to show I.D.s to prove that we were over 25 years old. I have to tell you, this made my day. I can’t remember the last time I was carded.

Because we wanted to try the entire place out, we purchased game cards along with our entrees. After dinner, we headed over to the gaming area to use our cards. I, personally, spent a lot of time playing skeeball. It’s a low-risk, low-reward game that is just my speed – slow. The girls and my husband had far better results on other more exciting games.

As with any arcade, you earn tickets if you play a game well. You can redeem those tickets for prizes which are, not surprisingly, underwhelming and overpriced. (Some are even questionable - Viking footballs but not Packer footballs?!) What you must know about Dave & Buster’s is that it is, most definitely, NOT cheap.

As 8pm approached, it became more and more crowded. People were starting to grumble a bit about the lengthy wait for tables in the restaurant area. I also noticed that more and more families had very young children who were having a tough time waiting to be fed. Overall, it was a well-behaved crowd, but the noise level grew as the night went on and I remembered why I’m not a big fan of arcades and casinos.

All in all, we had fun, although I’m really not sure if or when I’ll go back. I’m not much of a game player, don’t really like a lot of noise and could do without large crowds. But I’m glad I experienced it first-hand.

Even before it opened, people were outspoken with their concern over Dave & Buster’s moving into Wauwatosa. Many mentioned past problems that had occurred over at Mayfair Mall and wondered whether those issues (which have largely been resolved) would now relocate to Dave & Buster’s.

Judging from the forum on the WauwatosaNOW website, the controversy over this business still exists. People on the forum are scared. They’re defensive. They’re worried. And, unfortunately, some of them are racist. The comments range from concern over thugs and “bad people” patronizing this new business to young kids running wild.

Then there are the people who specifically mention race as an issue. To them, I say: Shame on you. Dave & Buster’s is a private business – a very successful private business. They’ve taken land that was vacant and put in its place something that attracts patrons from Wauwatosa and beyond. Last time I checked, Wauwatosa isn’t a gated community. I’d like to think that we’re color blind, but I’m embarrassed to find that we’re not.

I’m not sure what kind of businesses people want to move into these vacant lots, but I don’t think we have enough churches and coffee shops opening to keep them happy. Vibrant businesses come in all different shapes and sizes and attract lots of different people…from all over the metro-Milwaukee area. And this is a good thing. Is it for everybody? No, but then again, no business appeals to everyone…not even McDonald’s or Starbucks.

I too have a problem with parents that bring their very young children to Dave & Buster’s and don’t supervise them. (After 9pm it’s strictly 21 and over.) But I also have a problem with parents who bring very young children to R-rated movies late at night. I think the iPic complex over at Bayshore has the right idea when they don’t allow anyone under 21 years old in after 7pm.

Look, I agree that Wauwatosa businesses need to be good “corporate citizens” and respect the rights and concerns of the people of the municipality in which they operate. Mo’s Irish Pub on Bluemound Road is just one example of a place that’s had to work to resolve issues and concerns stemming from its popularity and success. Dave & Buster’s may also have similar challenges as they settle into their new home. But it’s up to us, Wauwatosa, to be open-minded and color blind and to voice our concerns without prejudice. Otherwise, we’re all just thugs.


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