I've talked with many store owners about how they run their game room. Some see a game room as a huge drain on a store's resources in rent, employee time, destroyed folding chairs and event planning. Many don't want a game space and some have eliminated their space for additional inventory. They suggest charging for game space. Other store owners insist that a game room is essential for building community and that it should always be free and available.
Originally I listened to the first group of anti game space people. Why? Personally, I've never gamed at a store before owning my own. I only played role playing games before the store and I still think they're best with a core group of people, preferably at home with the Cheetos and Mountain Dew. I find convention games unsatisfying, at least the ones I played in at OrcCon in Southern California when I was a teenager. Second, I just didn't have enough space in our first store and to not need game space was exactly what I had hoped to hear.
Over time our current store went from having zero game space (it's even forbidden in our lease) to having two tables or even more if we can pull it off. Last weekend was World Magic Day and we had 16 people playing at $20 each (they each averaged out to about $50 that day). Why 16? Because we had enough tables and chairs for exactly 16. We probably turned away another ten. Each Sunday we play Warmachine. The new Summer tournament just started. I have the day off, but I know it went well because we sold a ton of Warmachine last Sunday. The same is true with other planned events, with the exception of role-playing games. RPG players seem not to spend much money on event nights, although they do spend it throughout the rest of the month.
I think there is a wrong way of looking at game space. The wrong way is to be to0 analytical and use a business model. For example, logically you would like to say: My 1,000 square foot game room is costing me $2,070 each month, plus the cost of heating/cooling, bathroom supplies and broken folding chairs (probably one a month at $17 each). Do those gamers who use the space buy enough stuff to cover those costs? Would they have bought that stuff anyway?
The answer is that it's way more abstract and fuzzy. Game space is what differentiates a game store from the Internet, from the comic book store, from the Barnes & Noble, and other game store competitors. Having it is a huge reason to come to the store, plus there's the economic argument above. Yes, it does drive direct sales from game room users, but it also creates community. That community is what's desperately needed nowadays. Yes, you can play D&D with your friends, but the most popular games nowadays are miniature and trading card games. These games require a variety of opponents, as opposed to the usual gaming buddies.