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Meeting at Panera Bread on University tonight, 7p

As those on the mailing list know, we are using the summer to “try out” new places to meet for our weekly Go meetings.  Tonight we’re going to try the Panera Bread on University at the usual time (7p).  To stay abreast of the current location, your best bet is to join the mailing list (look in the left-hand sidebar for info).

Panera Bread
11472 University Boulevard
Orlando, FL 32817-2109
(407) 273-4411

I hope you will exercise some patience with the switching locations — we will settle down to something regular by end of Summer.  For those who want to understand what the heck is going on with all this moving around and who “we” are to make such decisions, read on.  Otherwise, feel free to ignore the rest, which is a bit long-winded.

As you all know, Josh is leaving for graduate school, which leaves a leadership vacuum in the club.  Jonathan S., Phillip B., Miki H., and I have decided to “step up” and lead by committee.  Why us?  Because we chose to do so … if there are others of you out there who would like to be involved, let me know.  We’re meeting about once a quarter specifically to discuss club business and divvy up tasks.  Our primary focus is on recruitment and retention.  Part of our plan for this is to have more activities each year (more on this in the coming months), and to try to rearrange our meetings to make it more likely to pick up new members.

In fact, there are a number of us who feel that the Barnes & Nobel location has a number of disadvantages.  The first and most obvious of these are the table sizes.  Second, B&N closes at 10p, which makes squeezing in a third game sometimes quite difficult.  Finally and most importantly, the foot traffic is not really serving us in terms of gaining interest from passers by.  While we do get the occasional person asking about the game, virtually no one decided to sit down and play.  Moreover, the traffic was quite different each week, which means there was no real chance to have our presence serve as a reminder to ask about the game.  It also did not help (in my mind) that we asked on more than one occasion to be placed on Barnes & Nobles calendar and were refused.  That, coupled with some reactions from the staff always gave me (at least) the impression that our presence was not particularly welcomed.

So for the last few weeks we tried Natura Café, which had several crucial advantages for us.  First, there is no closing time, so we can play as long as we like.  Also, the tables are reasonably sized for our activities.  Most crucially:  They have a steady, regular crowd that repeatedly expressed interest in the game.  I played more first-teaching games with people in my two attendances at Natural than in the last TWO YEARS we’ve been at Barnes & Noble.  The owner of Natura was also very happy to have us there, and was willing to grant us a number of privileges.  For example, she was willing to let us leave 9×9 boards and stones to keep with their other games so new people could come back at their own leisure and play.  She was also willing to allow us to put up flyers about the club on the front window and the bulletin board in the place, etc.  Natura is also walkable from campus, which means UCF students without cars could finally come to our Tuesday night meetings.  It is also very accessible by the Lynx bus system, whereas B&N is not.

But Natura also had disadvantages.  It is a hooka bar, and though there was rarely anyone smoking prior to 9p, some did smoke and the smoke clearly and understandably bothered some of our members.  The place is noisier than B&N, and they start playing live music around 9p (which I quite liked, but I can see how some might not like it).  We will clearly lose some of our regular members if we stay there, which is something we don’t want.

The Panera Bread on University is our next “trial”, as of today.  It, like the others, has some advantages and disadvantages.  It is also close enough to the University that students without cars could get there, and the tables are larger than B&N (as I recall).  It’s a restaurant, but a fast-food place … so presumably they aren’t going to notice or mind if not all of the members buy something (we’ll see).  But their closing time is still 10p, and I guess we wont get any more “support” from them regarding advertisement than we got from B&N.  As for foot traffic, we’ll have to see.  We’re going to give it a try for two or three weeks and see how it goes.

We do have a few other ideas in mind, so be patient.  If anyone out there is still reading this and has some thoughts, please send them to me.


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