No need to be ‘Sorry’ in this tavern


Photo courtesy of Mana Boardgame Tavern owners

Pittsburgh’s first board game-themed bar opens downtown

Rebekah Waldron, North Campus Editor

A new board game themed tavern in set to open in Pittsburgh. Vince and Shannon Ebbitt, the owners of Pittsburgh’s Mana Boardgame Tavern, have been working on the project for just over two years now. The tavern will feature signature themed drinks, beer from local distributors, and food that is made with locally-sourced. Of course, the tavern will also include a library consisting of over 400 games for the crowds to choose from.

Shannon, who has over 20 years of bartending experience, has shared the vision with her husband of opening Mana for years. The two of them came up with the idea by tossing it out there with their boss at the time in casual conversation. “I said, ‘this would be so cool!’ and totally expected an eye roll. Instead, he said, ‘That’s actually a really good idea!’ and we started planning,” Shannon explains.

Two years ago, the Ebbitts started a Kickstarter program to gauge how the local public would respond to a possible board game themed bar. To their surprise, they were fully supported not only by local neighborhoods, but also by various online communities, local beer distributors, gaming stores like Games Unlimited, and even local neighborhood businesses. With the overwhelming support, Mana went under construction.

The building that hosts Mana is a historical landmark building in the North Shore area. As the couple prepared to open the first time, the building collapsed. With continued support, the building was reconstructed, and Project Mana went on. “If we would have named it anything else, it would have been Murphy’s Law!” Shannon jokes.

Kristen Courtney, long-time friend of Vince, and the chosen manager of the business, plans to run the bar with a firm policy in checking IDs and with a relaxed environment. “Like a coffee house, but with a kick… Cocktails!” With background experience in bartending, as well as holding management positions at country clubs and other businesses, Kristin stepped up to the plate and has played a hand in the final construction of Mana.

The love of boardgames comes from Shannon’s own personal collection. As her collection grew, they began to take over and there was no more space left to store everything. “We all know people who have boardgame nights with their friends. Dungeons and Dragons, Monopoly, all the classics… Sure. But who wants to host that party? Who wants all those people in their house?” Shannon explains the main idea behind the Tavern. “Why not come to some place like Mana, where you can hang out, drink if you want to, and play games with your friends and family?” Vince continues, “I’d love to see this place become somewhere that’s a couple’s first date story.”

The décor of the place is a “turn of the century mad scientist” atmosphere that intends to welcome everyone and be an open, fun, easygoing place to hang out. Some of the sculpting is created by Vince himself, including imps, fossils, and a hellhound. “We plan for it to be more of a chill scene in the front up by the bar, and the farther back you go into the building, it becomes, well, mad.”

Shannon reflects on advice they’ve received from local business and bar owners. “We’re going extremely by-the-book when it comes to liquor laws and health inspections.” The goal is to not let anything else delay the big opening day (expected in mid September).

The tavern is located on Western Avenue in the North Shore area of downtown and will require a $5 “playing fee” for those planning to play games while they hang out on the scene. This fee goes towards maintaining the games as food and drinks are consumed around them and growing the collection with requests and more inspiration to the game library. The fee will be waived for those who are coming just to eat or drink without the gaming. If planning to attend with a large group, reservations and calls ahead are encouraged by the management staff and a group fee can be applied. Events like class reunions, anniversaries, college graduation parties and more can also be accommodated up to 80 guests. “Every other major city has a bar like this. We just figured, it’s time Pittsburgh has one, too.”