Downtime’s 5th Year! (2 of 2)

Downtime’s 5th Year! (2 of 2)

About a year after opening, we started becoming aware of some new challenges that in many ways were actually good. The small tiny kitchen was constantly running out of space to store things. Our small footprint limited the number of visitors we could have at any given time. We also didn’t particularly enjoy hanging out in the dim, windowless upstairs room, in what was once probably a storage attic.

Downtime moves to a new location

In 2019 we began to look for a larger space where we could grow into. It wasn’t long before we found a new shop just around the corner, with four times the floorspace!

Downtime 2.0

Game Night at our new place!

Keeping with tradition, we opened our doors for Wednesday Game Night at our new place on 29th of January 2020. It has a spacious floor plan for ample tables and chairs, lots of natural light, and increased capacity in the kitchen. We felt like things were about ready to take off!

If we knew then what we know now…

Well, so much for that.

As you may recall, 2020 turned out not to be the best time to open any business. Much less one that depended on intimate groups of people huddled closely around a game table.

So much for getting together for board games…

In March of that year we had to close our doors for lockdown, much like everywhere else in the world. We unfortunately had to send our staff home. But we were fortunate that we had enough savings to provide them with half-salary to weather the duration of the 5-week lockdown.

After the initial lockdown, restaurants and cafes were gradually allowed to reopen on a very limited basis. At times the local regulations were relaxed enough for us to host a few dine-in customers. Other times we had to limit our service to takeout-only.

This has to be said. We owe a deep gratitude to every single one of our customers and friends who supported us by ordering food delivery during this time.

You know who you are! We thank you very much for your continued support!

Managing to get in a game or two

The Covid-era “new normal”

Slowly we allowed guests to sit and play board games again, though we had to take out many favorite games that had a high player count or those that got people a little too excited (sorry social deduction fans).

We kept close watch on the local Bali infection rate data. If the infection count started climbing, we temporarily suspended gaming activities, and would resume them again when the numbers declined. We really love seeing people gather around and have fun over games. However we didn’t want to be responsible for anyone catching Covid at our premises–and potentially infecting their families or elders at home.

After three years, thankfully with the support of local vaccination efforts and the gradual evolving nature of the virus itself, Covid has ceased to be a life-threatening issue for the general public at least for the moment.

Going forward

Heading into our fifth year, we continue our passion for finding ideas to refresh our menu offerings. We always seek to create new exciting dishes for our customers. We will continue to draw from the wide world of culinary possibilities that Bali hasn’t experienced yet.

This year we added new dishes such as our overloaded version of the Montreal classic poutine, and our personal favorite new Spanish breakfast egg dish huevos con ajos. We also added to our homemade burger offerings including the Sunset Burger, which we’re not ashamed to admit was heavily inspired by California’s In-n-Out animal style burger.

Nice to see happy people playing board games

We also continue to be excited about the growing board gaming community here in Bali. As per tradition, at our shop we continue to introduce newcomers into the hobby every Wednesday evenings.

We’re also starting to notice people from other places like Ubud and Canggu starting to form little weekly board game groups and gatherings of their own. It’s very heartening to see more and more people discover board games. We wish them well and godspeed, as they remind us of our own humble origins, not too long ago.

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Downtime’s 5th Year! (1 of 2)

Downtime’s 5th Year! (1 of 2)

Folks have asked us why we opened a board game cafe here in Bali. May 2023 marks the fifth year of operations here at Downtime Cafe. On this occasion we thought it might be nice to take a trip back to nostalgia lane and share some moments along our journey thus far.

A gathering of board game lovers

When we first moved from Jakarta to Bali in 2016 we couldn’t find enough people to play board games with. We started inviting friends, fellow travelers, etc. via social media to join us as we hosted Game Night gatherings every Wednesday evenings. We met at various coffee shops around town, and introduced new players to simple games such Saboteur, Avalon, Bang! The Dice Game, and Port Royal. Thus the Bali Board Games group was born.

The Bali Board Games group met weekly at one of the local coffee shops.

We kept bouncing from one coffee shop to another over the next couple of years. Finding a place that had the right combination of large tables, good lighting, and decent food and drinks is surprisingly harder than you might think. On top of that, lugging heavy bags full of cardboard on scooters (sometimes in the middle of a rainstorm) was taking its toll on our backs.

Needing a place of our own

We began toying around with the idea of setting up our own gaming space. We’ve seen board game cafes work in larger cities like Jakarta and Bangkok. Would the concept work in a small island like Bali though? There was only one way for us to find out.

We found a small shop in an area of Bali called Kerobokan. This part of town may not be as well-known as Canggu, Seminyak, or Kuta. However it has the advantage of being in a central location and is easily accessible from those other areas. The shop was previously a warung or local eatery, and it already had a small kitchen, some rudimentary seating area, and a washroom. We just needed to add a splash of paint, fix a few things, get some furniture, and we were good to go!

Needs a little bit of work, but it’ll do.

The next thing we had to ponder was, we needed a name. We had brainstormed a bunch of names already, and rejected names that had “board” in the title. This was because there were already a lot of surfboard shops in Bali using those kind of names already. Names with “dice” or “game” also didn’t make the cut because we didn’t want to focus too much on board games (more on that later).

We wanted a name that conveyed the concept of chilling, taking some time out of your busy work schedule, hanging out with friends, enjoying good food, having a good time. As in, enjoying a little downtime for yourself.

The first board game cafe in Bali

Downtime is open for business!

Downtime Cafe became the first board game cafe in Bali on Wednesday, 16th of May, 2018. We launched on that day by hosting our usual Wednesday evening Game Night. At long last, Bali Board Games had a permanent home!

For the first time, Bali Wednesday Game Night had a permanent home

Questions still remained. It would be hard enough for a niche operation like a board game cafe to survive even in a large metropolis like Jakarta or Bangkok. What would our chances be in a small resort island like Bali, whose population is not even 1/10th the size?

Judging by our experience and relative difficulty of getting people to come to our game nights, there wasn’t enough of a built-in base in Bali to support a shop focused just on board games. If we were to survive, we had to focus on the food and beverage side our business. The board games aspect would have to take a back seat.

Cafe first, board games second

We chose “international comfort food” as our driving concept. We didn’t want to offer trendy food like Indomie instant noodles or ayam geprek fried chicken, which were ubiquitous and “viral” back then. Rather, we wanted to offer Bali a chance to taste unique, delicious comfort foods from around the world, using locally-sourced ingredients from the island.

Our cornerstone was our triple-cooked Belgian fries, with your choice of homemade dipping sauces. Of course we must have nasi goreng. We developed our own unique variations, such as our bacon fried rice, and our very own Balinese fried rice. Thankfully, reception to our food has been generally very positive.

Downtime Cafe was beginning to grow.

(To be Continued…)

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