Considering the fact that Void’s July issue is all about beer and the best places to get it around Jacksonville, it seemed like a great time to spotlight Jacksonville’s first game bar. “GLHF,” which stands for “Good Luck, Have Fun,” is located in downtown Jacksonville at The Landing. GLHF has provided an optimal place to combine gaming and bar atmospheres in perfect tandem, with two full-service bars along with PC games, console games, arcade cabinets and tabletop games giving customers plenty of options to choose from. This past week, Void had the opportunity to sit down with owner Cliff to get some insider information about the bar.
Void: How did the bar open and why?
Cliff: It’s a funny story actually. One of my best friends and another guy we know from Texas came in to help us open the bar up. I had all local people come out and do all the art for inside and outside of the bar. The reason why I opened the bar is because I’m a huge gamer myself, and we had the family business [Chicago Pizza] already going. The first Chicago Pizza opened in Atlanta in 1989, and then we originally opened up four other locations in Jacksonville. I took over this restaurant location about five years ago. So instead of going out and finding a new location, we already had a great restaurant with extra space and all of the licensing we were going to need anyway.
What was the inspiration behind opening the bar?
At the time, we would have game-viewing parties for games that are broadcasted on Twitch and other streaming networks within the restaurant because we had so much extra room to do so. Last summer, when the game was popular, we had PokemonGo crawls and I had about one hundred people following me around downtown. It was a lot of fun, and I decided I wanted to take this further after that. We had so much space that was obsolete and one of my GMs is a huge gamer. We wanted to build something for the community and really bring the local gamers together.
How do you feel that people have responded to the bar?
Very, very well. What we have here is only available in a handful of locations across the U.S. It’s kind of like a speakeasy of some sort because you walk in and it looks only to be a pizza place with all of these arcade machines. About a year ago, we only had about three arcade machines and then we started going crazy with them. We were sort of trying to create a “arcade bar” atmosphere. If you venture around, you can find the game room packed full of TV and computer screens with a multitude of games to play. We have something for everyone — food, drinks and games. We also have something for everyone when it comes to just the games. It’s really funny because people will say, “Oh, I’m too old to play games,” but they get on some of our old-school arcade games like Frogger, Galaga, Pacman or whatever they want to play … people always end up having a ton of fun.
Tell me a little bit about GLHF’s hours of operation.
We are open seven days a week. We open at 5 p.m. Monday through Friday because of downtown parking. It is free to park at any of the downtown meters after 6 p.m, so we really wanted to save our customers that headache. We’re a little bit of an adult atmosphere, so we changed our time for individuals under the age of 18 — minors can be here until 8 0’clock. The best time for younger people to come in would be on Saturday and Sunday because we open at 11 a.m. instead of 5 p.m.
Are there any changes coming in the near future? If so, why?
There’s always change when it comes to gaming. We just bought a new virtual reality system we are bringing in soon. One of the coolest parts about a game bar is that there are always new games or consoles coming out, so there is always something new to do. It keeps me and everyone else interested. Another really cool new thing we are doing is giving out tokens. Say someone comes in — every time they buy a drink, we can give you two tokens to play any arcade game.
What are customers typically playing while at the bar? What are the best games for the setting?
Your main games in Jacksonville right now are League of Legends, which is on PC, Overwatch for both PCs and consoles, and fighting games. The scene in Jacksonville right now, which has been developing for years, is fighting video games such as Super Smash Brothers and things like that.
How do you host events at GLHF? Tell us a little bit about the tournaments you guys do here.
We have individuals or groups of individuals that actually do our events for us. They have built up the community already, and we have a venue to provide them to use. We have groups such as “The Jacksonville Fighting Game Community,” and they host an event every month called Revival. Some groups do monthly events and some do weekly events on days like Thursdays. Certain individuals host events at UNF’s campus too. We also still do viewing parties regularly at the game bar. The eSports scene of Jacksonville is growing and we just keep pushing it forward.
Do you have any upcoming events that you would like people to know about?
We have WasabiCon coming up in October. Then we are doing the tournament CSGO (Counter-Strike Global Offensive), which is broadcasted on TBS. We’re going to have preliminary tournaments here, and any funds are all going to go to the convention we are having right across the street. CollectiveCon is coming up and GAAM Adventure Show is on August 12. Any money won at GAAM will go towards the winner’s charity. None of the funds go towards the games, players or venue. GLHF’s charity is Extra Life, and we actually raised $3,000 for them in May during a constant seven day stream we had at the bar. Any money raised from GLHF’s Twitch stream also goes straight to Extra Life. All of the money Extra Life raises goes to Wolfson Children’s Hospital in Jacksonville.
Thanks so much for your time, Cliff. What is the number one thing you want people to know about GLHF?
We are all about the community and growing with the community. We want to have more tournaments and things of that nature just to bring everyone together. It has been going pretty great so far, so I’m really looking forward to the future and watching the growth of the eSports community.