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Inspiring Conversations with John McCormick of The Roguelike Tavern

Today we’d like to introduce you to John McCormick.

Hi John, so excited to have you on the platform. So before we get into questions about your work-life, maybe you can bring our readers up to speed on your story and how you got to where you are today?
For the past ten years, I had been working in the immersive entertainment and hospitality industries and sought to combine the two into a business venture. A few years ago, I began actively looking for a bar space from which I could host and produce various kinds of interactive entertainment offerings. After a having a few deals fall through, I struck pay dirt with my current location, formerly Crawford’s Pass, and Sardo’s Open Mic before that. Our grand opening was scheduled for the week that the pandemic closure orders started being handed down. Once it became obvious that waiting things out wasn’t a viable solution, we pivoted to take-out and curbside pickup and started offering our story-based puzzle boxes.

Alright, so let’s dig a little deeper into the story – has it been an easy path overall and if not, what were the challenges you’ve had to overcome?
Opening not just a brand new bar but a brand new bar CONCEPT during a pandemic has been a huge struggle. Even something as basic as getting a permit for our sign has taken months longer than it usually would have, so it’s been tricky even letting people know we’re here and open for business. We don’t have any outdoor seating space, so al fresco dining was never an option for us, and the immersive entertainment that we were going to feature has, by necessity, gone almost entirely virtual. Thus the idea for cocktail-based puzzle boxes was born.

As you know, we’re big fans of The Roguelike Tavern. For our readers who might not be as familiar what can you tell them about the brand?
The Roguelike Tavern is a craft cocktail bar and restaurant in Burbank, offering excellent comfort food, delicious cocktails, lovingly curated whiskey and mezcal lists, and immersive entertainment. Chef Amber McGee, formerly of Mikkeller, is running our kitchen and continually impresses with her gourmet takes on classic comfort food dishes – my personal favorites are the pulled pork poutine tater tots and the sazerac beignets, and the chicken katsu sandwich has turned out to be a major crowd favorite as well. Our most exciting offering is our immersive puzzle experience, “Spirits of Tillinghast.” Each experience includes a 60-90 minute story-based puzzle game, as well as craft spirit flights and dinner for two. You receive a cryptic message from Cassidy, a former Roguelike bartender who has gone missing under mysterious circumstances. By delving into her notes, hacking systems, and using their wits, players uncover the truth of Cassidy’s disappearance, and how it’s connected to the shadowy Tillinghast Organization, and their dangerous paranormal research. It’s a blast and available to purchase on our online ordering site: www.toasttab.com/TheRoguelike.

The crisis has affected us all in different ways. How has it affected you and any important lessons or epiphanies you can share with us?
None of this is easy, and none of this is ideal. Forgive yourself for not being at your best in the middle of the largest worldwide health crisis in modern history, and just do what you can every day, even if it feels like a tiny step forward. Also, it’s never been more clear to me that we have a moral, civic and spiritual duty to help our friends, families, and communities in whatever way we can. Earlier on in the pandemic, for me that meant using my merchant accounts to purchase PPE for protesters in DTLA and Long Beach. Now it means trying to find ways to incorporate charitable giving and community outreach into our business model. I’ve become fond of saying, “dark times call for bold hearts,” and I try to live by that as much as I can.

Pricing:

  • Spirits of Tillinghast Puzzle Experience (1-2 Players) – $150
  • Spirits of Tillinghast Puzzle Experience (4 Players) – $250

Contact Info:

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