Some problems in business build up heads of steam until some sort of resolution is inevitable. This is what happened yesterday when we realized we had grown big enough that we could no longer accommodate open gaming in the evenings. Several event organizers complained in the same week that there wasn't enough space, and that open gamers weren't cooperating. The solution is what many game stores already do: no open gaming during scheduled events. Starting yesterday, after 5:30pm on weekdays (3:30pm on Friday), the only people allowed in the game center are those in scheduled events (or their parents). We'll try to leave weekends alone unless we run into problems.
What we really want is for events to run smoother. Those that are open gaming in the evening have a few options. The most obvious solution for them is to join existing events. Our Friday Night Magic crowd is still fairly small and there's plenty of room for those who want to play. In fact, people show up on Friday night to play Magic and don't join that event (that is over).
Open gamers are welcome to create their own event. Want more Magic? Check the calendar and find a day to schedule an event. Granted, all card events are "pay to play" events, but a $5 gift certificate buy-in is a reasonable fee for a constructed event. There are also informal events that are not on the calendar, like Blood Bowl, that will need to be put on the calendar to continue. As long as an event is open to the public, it's valid.
Finally, there is a group of people who simply use the store as a hang out. Some are good customers, but many begrudge us as much as a soda purchase. We're not stupid; we notice these things. In the world of "free," even a non-spending "customer" can add value to those who do spend money, by providing a worthy opponent. However, this isn't a digital medium. We live in meat-space with limited resources, and we've just hit the limit on that resource. I expect most of the free loaders to move on and the good customers to possibly migrate to an event. This second group is the one that I worry about alienating, but I don't have much choice. We also know much of the shoplifting in the store happens during the evening hours, and the top suspects are our open gamers. Hopefully we'll curtail that activity as well.
The quality of events will improve with this decision. Noise will be reduced. Space will be increased. We can also gauge our capacity better and schedule more or better events on evenings that are clearly slower. Hopefully those that were driven away by the chaos will return. Those who are reluctant will commit to coming.
Welcome to year three in the new location!