Grab your game cards and all of your extra tickets — good, clean fun has officially arrived in Gainesville.
A new Dave & Buster’s opened Monday at the Celebration Pointe Mall, marking the ninth edition of the entertainment complex in Florida. Gainesville’s location features a full restaurant and arcade and will follow rigid COVID-19 protocols for all employees and guests.
The complex, located at 4949 Celebration Pointe Ave., is open from 11 a.m. to midnight Sunday through Thursday and 11-1 a.m. Friday and Saturday. Specials include Happy Hour Monday through Friday from 4-7 p.m. and Late-Night Happy Hour Thursday through Sunday from 9 p.m. to closing. Frontline pandemic workers and members of the armed forces will receive a 20% discount on food and games with a valid I.D.
The staples of Dave & Buster’s are all present in the new location, including a full-service bar and restaurant with the 40-foot “WOW” Wall TV, the “Winner’s Circle” where guests can redeem their tickets for prizes and the “Million-Dollar Midway” featuring a number of arcade games.
Among the attractions in the Midway is a virtual reality ride with six different simulations, as well as classic games like Skee-Ball, NBA Hoops and Dance Dance Revolution.
“It’s a little bit of everything,” said general manager Kendrick Smith.
Smith, 42, was originally managing the Memphis location of Dave & Buster’s, but he made the move to Gainesville after taking the managerial position for the new location. He said Gainesville’s promising future as a developing city inspired the choice for it to house Florida’s ninth Dave & Buster’s.
The response from families across the area to the added entertainment complex, Smith said, has been enthusiastic.
“A lot of people are extremely happy that we’re opening up,” he said.
Not only does the location offer a new excursion for Gainesville residents, but it also created jobs in the area through the hiring of its staff. Applications and interviews starting in early January resulted in a team of around 135 employees working everywhere from the kitchen to the arcade.
Hannah Lester, a 22-year-old UF biology graduate, heard about the impending Dave & Buster’s in December of 2020. After recounting her positive experience at the Orlando location, she said she decided to apply. She was then hired to work in the Winner’s Circle, where she distributes prizes to guests.
Employees were trained in the week leading up to the opening, starting Monday and culminating in an early opening Thursday for friends and family of staff to visit the location. The guests dined in the restaurant and played games in the Midway while employees got their first taste of a regular shift.
Gage Ellis, a 20-year-old Dave & Buster’s employee also working in the Winner’s Circle, said the hours of training have paid off.
“I think we’ve got this down pat now,” he said.
The new location opens with extensive safety standards in place. Along with following local ordinances, Dave & Buster’s will require masks for all guests and employees and temperature checks for all employees before starting a shift. All games and tables will be sanitized regularly, restaurant menus are disposable and gloves will be available upon request.
Smith said creating a safe environment was of the utmost priority in planning to open. Through these guidelines, he said he and his team are looking to provide an experience that allows guests to enjoy the full Dave & Buster’s experience while still remaining safe.
“We hope we bring a lot of fun,” Smith said.
Contact Heather Bushman at email@example.com. Follow her on Twitter @hgrizzl.
Heather Bushman is a fourth-year journalism and political science student and the enterprise elections reporter. She previously wrote and edited for the Avenue desk and reported for WUFT News. You can usually find her writing, listening to music or writing about listening to music. Ask her about synesthesia or her album tier list sometime.