The pandemic has another victim: GameWorks announced its demise in December.
On the esports and eatertainment concept’s website, officials said: “Thank you for the many years of memories! The past 20 months and counting we have seen our business turned upside down and the continued slow economic recovery has left us no choice other than to close. … Thank you for all the love over these past decades. We hope you remember us fondly and wish you all the best. July 1996-December 2021.”
The San Francisco-based company operated six GameWorks locations, including Chicago, Cincinnati, Denver, Las Vegas, Minneapolis and Seattle, as well as one Tabletop Tap House in San Francisco, which has also closed. In addition to serving as a destination for amusements like video gaming, arcades, laser tag, bowling and billiards, the venues also served as sports lounges with walls of video screens. Each hosted The Works Kitchen with a full menu and bar offerings, and, as of 2019, the chain generated nearly 48% of sales from the food-and-beverage side.
But GameWorks was one of many eatertainment chains that were hit particularly hard by the pandemic-related closures that began in 2020. The chain was forced to temporarily close what was then seven GameWorks units, as well as the one-off Tabletop Tap House, until COVID restrictions were lifted.
By September 2020, GameWorks officials were optimistic enough about reopening to file plans for an initial public offering, despite reporting three consecutive years of losses. That IPO never happened, and the registration was declared abandoned in November 2021, according to filings with the Securities and Exchange Commission.
GameWorks opened the first location in 1997 in Seattle as a joint creative endeavor by Sega, Universal Studios and DreamWorks. On its website, the concept quotes DreamWorks founder Steven Spielberg saying, “GameWorks is about fun, excitement, competition and bringing people together. It is also about escape, adventure and connecting. It gives each person a chance to prove that he or she is a star.”
The chain, however, endured a Chapter 11 bankruptcy in 2004 and Sega Corp. invested roughly $10 million to buy out other partners and build the chain into a dining-and-entertainment concept. In 2017, ExWorks Capital took on ownership as major stakeholder, naming Philip Kaplan as chair and CEO.
The plan at the time was to lean into the then-rapidly-growing esports gaming audience, providing a space for gatherings and events in units ranging from 20,000- to 30,000-square-feet.
According to The Real Deal, mall operator Unibail-Rodamco-Westfield has sued GameWorks seeking damages for allegedly abandoning spaces in shopping centers in San Jose and Bethesda, Md.
GameWorks officials did not immediately respond to requests for more information.
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