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Dave & Busters UK, The Story.

The Background

Founded in 1982, Dave & Buster's is one of the US leading upscale restaurant/entertainment concepts operating 26 locations throughout the United States and is developing license agreements internationally. Dave & Buster's stock is traded on the NYSE under the symbol DAB.

The UK Franchise

In 1996 a franchise deal was struck with Bass PLC of Birmingham, England (NYSE:BAS) to open up to 10 UK based D&B stores over the period of the next 10 -15 years.

1997 saw the opening of the first UK store, Solihull (Birmingham) Initially opening to rave reviews and a genuine enthusiasm from the Birmingham public that this just wasn't your typical entertainment venue.

The go ahead for a second store soon followed and in July 1998 a stored opened at The Venue, Cribbs Causeway (Bristol)

The Dave & Buster's stores in England were two of the highest weekly sales businesses in the UK leisure market but that didn't mean that they were particularly profitable. With massive overheads and an alarmingly high employee turnover it became apparent that turnovers would need to be in the 6 figure mark each week just to make the stores any sort of financial success.

Early enthusiasm soon faded from the Birmingham & Bristol public and while the stores remained popular they didn't bring in that break even figure apart from the odd school holiday week when the turnover could reach as high as £150k, a real potential if they could make it this busy all the time.

Problems

Things never seemed to be going well right from the off. Indeed some leisure analysts could see that the franchise was somewhat doomed before the Birmingham store opened it's doors to the public.

The talk in house was of the 'third store', a store that would be profitable and cover the losses by the two stores. It was rumored to be in Thurrock, in fact some promotional materials briefly carried details of 'Thurrock - coming soon' It's thought that a store was built but converted to a Hollywood Bowl instead of ever being a D&B. This was maybe the first sign that things weren't going to be successful and the franchise was on borrowed time.

Regardless they continued and saw in the millennium to a reasonably successful new years eve party.

The two stores remained open and losses were reduced slowly due to better management and shorter opening hours. There were still fundamental flaws in the experience that was 'Dave & Busters' - things like the 'American under 21 rule' (under 21's were not allowed in unless accompanied by over 25's) Strange rules that didn't endeavor themselves to the public and generally annoyed the staff who also could see the potential of new customers should this ever be scraped.

Closure

It was early Autumn 2000 when Bass decided enough was enough. A very sudden announcement, which would bring the closure within just a week.

Closing poster

DALLAS (October 11, 2000) -- Dave & Buster's, Inc. (NYSE:DAB) announced today that Bass PLC of Birmingham, England (NYSE:BAS) has decided to withdraw from its license agreement with Dave & Buster's and is considering options for its locations in suburban Birmingham and Bristol, England.

While it shocked and upset many of the workforce, we all knew that it was obvious that things couldn't continue as they were.

The company would shut the stores in a weeks time (Oct 18th) if no prospect buyer came along. One look at the books put the few parties interested off, it was not surprising really. Large, amusement-led concepts such as Dave & Buster's no longer fitted into Bass's long-term plans. Or at least that was the excuse given at the time. You decide.

The sheer speed at the closure suggests that Bass wanted rid of, and wanted rid of very quickly with a minimal amount of fuss. The employees of both stores would be relocated to other Bass venues/pubs or a redundancy package of 3-4 months continuous weekly wages was offered.

Since the closure of the sites, nothing really happened, assets inside were removed and the buildings remained dormant. The Bristol store would get a new lease of life some 4 years after closure and reopened as a Hollywood bowl and two small resturants.

No longer D&B, - Hollywood Bow, Cribbs Causeway

They are far busier and more sucessful than the Bristol D&B store ever was. The Birmingham store reamains empty to this very day, some 6 years on.

Solihul Store, May 2006

The Website?

I worked at the Bristol site, as a student studying electronics I was drawn to the position of a midway tech as it would be good experience and the pay, location and hours suited me fine.

I joined in late September 1998.

D&B Bristol

The Bristol Store, Cribbs Causeway.

I worked at this store for over 2 years as a Midway Tech and if you didn't work there, you won't quite understand what the working atmosphere was like. Even though I didn't get paid much and the hours sucked, by god it was just the most enjoyable working times of my life. I expect it was the fact we were all very close, we were all very young and very much liked to socialise!

Many memorable nights out, many friends who till this day I remain in contact with.

I left D&B Bristol in September 2000 to concentrate on my final year of my degree, with the agreement of returning at the end of it. 5 weeks later it was closed for good. Everyone who worked there will have a particular memory of there time at Dave and Busters and certainly they'll remember the store and the time they worked there for many a year.

D&B Bristol Closure Party - Some of the workforce a the end of the night, lots of tears and hugs.

I don't know how this site really came about, its one of those strange events you look back on.

With the site still opening but on the verge of closing I started to email the few people I had addresses for and suggested just a page where we'd have email addresses to store. I'd never created a website before, I wasn't really any good with anything computers at the time. But still, while on a student loan I forked out for a domain name and used some free website hosting from my ISP. As time went on, that list of emails grew from a 5 or 6 to nearly 150 at its peak. From a initial page of info and email addresses over the days, months and even years it's evolved into a collection of memorable photos, news, information and memories.

I might add without the help of a few other members we'd have never made it, and the general enthusiasm of visitors kept me going when times were low.

The sites been very much and archive since 2003, there isn't much news and there isn't much interest. It's had 3 revamps and I've scanned probably 300 pictures in that time. It'll remain online for a few years yet, and every now and then someone finds it and sends me a nice email. It makes the whole thing worthwhile.

We lost two members of staff, two to many, and oh so tragically in both instances. Those two are and always will be sorely missed by those who met them.

If you've just found this site and you worked at the sites, hope you enjoy it and drop us an email to let me know how you're doing!

Those who've just stumbled upon it as guests who visited or just americans who are interested in international stores - hope you enjoy the read.

Tom Ford - December 2006 - tom@daveandbusters.co.uk

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