BY William Power & David Sami
Randolph Pub Ludique is a board game café that has over 1,500 games to choose from.
“It’s pretty incredible. Everyone is so nice,” said Gabriel Laplante about the staff at Randolph Pub Ludique. “I spilled a glass of coke and a waitress came over right away to clean the mess and gave me another one no charge.”
Laplante just recently discovered the café and makes an effort to go monthly. She loves this specific board game café because he feels comfortable going with any crowd.
“I can go with my girlfriend, parents, friends and never feel out of place.”
Melanie Gervais, manager at Randolph Pub Ludique, wants her café to continue bringing in new board games.
“We have some of the finest board games anyone can offer. Why not continue that?” she says. The pub used to charge $6 as an entry fee. They are now able to charge $8 for the fee while still seeing an increase in clientele. Gervais wants to eventually increase that fee, and sooner rather than later.
“I don’t know the exact numbers when it comes to our customers,” said Gervais. “I can tell you though that we wouldn’t have opened five more Randolphs over the last few years if we didn’t have the popularity to do so.”
Specialist cafés have seen a rise in customers across Montreal. While they can still be used as a place to catch up with others, we now see cafés that include things like board games, cozy couches, a fancy hotel ambiance, and even cats. There are more and more board game cafés in popular spots in the city. It is hard to find an empty table at your average board game café on a Friday or Saturday night.
Café Chat L’Heureux is heaven for cat lovers. There are cats throughout the entire restaurant, some of them sleeping and others playing with toys. The café sells a variety of cat merchandise ranging from necklaces with tiny paw medallions, to cat toys, pins, t-shirts and more.
To further embrace the cat atmosphere, they even use cat themed cutlery. Their hot water comes in a mug shaped like a cat with the handle of the mug being the cat’s tail.
“I think it would be a crime to come to this cat café and say you don’t enjoy it.” says customer Gabrielle Raymond. “Even if you don’t like cats.”
In 2014, the Café Chat L’Heureux project made $43,000 through clients pre-ordering their products. From there the project took off and Café Chat L’Heureux is now one of several cat cafés in Montreal.
With the food and drink menu comes a pamphlet with a picture of each cat and their names. The café makes sure to have different types of cats for all cat lovers. Their food and beverage selection is quite different from that of your average café. They estimate that the average number of daily customers at the café has almost tripled since 2019.
Raymond has been to cafés all across Montreal.
“Pub Ludique has better food than most restaurants,” said Raymond. Raymond and her friends were looking for a place to go out and play some board games. “The food was really an added bonus. It adds to the incredible experience of the café.”
Considered one of the fanciest cafés in Montreal, Crew Collective & Café used to be the headquarters of the Royal Bank of Canada. It has art with covering the walls and high-end furniture. The floors and walls are almost entirely marble. One would never guess a place as grand and luxurious would even be a café.
There are different sections throughout the café with some of them having computers set up and are reserved for those who want to work. Also there is an area with couches for customers who want to lay low and relax.
“They provide a feeling that you can’t get anywhere else,” says Gervais referring to specialist cafés. “The cafés provide an ambiance that is fun, light, real, and shielded for an instant from this harsh world.”
She thinks that specialist cafés continue to grow in popularity because of the joy they bring people. One cannot help but feel at peace or a warm buzz when entering these cafés.
“There’s just something different about these new cafés. I can’t really explain the feeling,” says Laplante.
Insert photo URL: Playing-Games2. Photo by William Power
They allow people a chance to socialize with others without it being necessarily awkward. “You are forced to meet new people. In a good way, I mean,” says Raymond. At Randolph Pub Ludique many of their board games are purposely a minimum of four player games, in order to encourage people to gather.
Raymond says she likes Café Chat L’Heureux as much as Randolph Pub Ludique.
“The cat café brings me back to when I read a book I like,” says Raymond. “It gives me a chance to escape the real world and just soak in the present moment with awesome people. Plus it has cats. What more can you ask for from a coffee shop?”
Raymond wants to visit all the cat cafés in Montreal before the end of the year.
“I never was a big coffee guy,” laughs Laplante. “I don’t really have a choice now that I spend so much time at these fancy cafés.”