At just 13 years old, Kai Kutsy-Durbin has achieved one of his dreams: to open Belfast’s first board game cafe.
Kutsy-Durbin and his mother, Sasha Kutsy, have been running the Boardgame Cafe since late October in the Belfast Maskers’ theater basement. Here, people can spend a wholesome Wednesday evening each week playing all the board games they want for $5.
The money goes toward the basement rental fee and buying new games, Kutsy said. There are also some treats for sale including tea, baked goods, milk shakes and tamales.
The venture aims to give game lovers an unplugged way to connect with others during the colder months, which can be especially lonely.
“There’s not many things that people can do in Belfast in the evening these days. It’s a place to gather and be together,” Kutsy said.
The Maskers’ basement walls are lined with more than 100 games from the Kutsy-Durbin family’s collection. Belfast’s game store, All About Games, also lends different games each week.
Kutsy-Durbin said he was personally in need of community, especially heading into winter, and saw how board games can be a bridge for people to connect at a similar cafe in Beverly, Massachusetts.
“It’s a whole different world that you can enter and play together,” he said.
Though it’s relatively new, the cafe has quickly gotten busy, Kutsy-Durbin said, with nearly 30 people showing up one night in mid-November.
Kutsy said attendees have told her the cafe has helped them feel more connected to the local community while having some good, clean fun.
“It allows people who have a common hobby who might not have otherwise met each other to come together,” All About Games Manager Carl Hare said.
The cafe is not Belfast’s first foray in board gaming. The town already has the game store and The Game Loft, a community and gaming program for kids ages 6 to 18 that aims for positive youth development.
However, Hare said a lot of customers have asked him if there was a local board gaming scene for adults in Belfast. Monthly meet ups come and go, but there hasn’t been anything consistent for adults, he said.
Now, the Boardgame Cafe is creating a space for people of all ages, Kutsy said. And she believes it has a great ambiance to boot.
“It’s been a really welcoming atmosphere and we meet so many new people every week,” she said.
The Boardgame Cafe at 17 Court St. is open on Wednesday nights from 6 to 9 p.m.