Pixel Bar, with Lee Davies and Edward Ta – #WeAreNightlife

NDML meets Lee Davies and Edward Ta at Pixel Bar

NDML visited Pixel Bar, the gaming bar based in Manchester and Leeds, which offers customers high-spec games consoles to rent as well as themed cocktails. We spoke with Lee Davies and Edward Ta, co-founders of Pixel Bar.

Lee manages the day to day running and service offering of the bars, building on his past experience as a bar manager in Manchester’s thriving hospitality scene. Ed manages the finances, profit-levels, risks, affiliate partnerships and insurance for the business. Pixel Bar recently dealt with a challenging claim which involved the break-in and theft of expensive gaming equipment. 

In the interview, the two discuss the competitive socialising sector, the popularity of gaming bars, and why partnering with a dedicated broker such as NDML is essential.

– Pixel Bar, Manchester, with co-founders Lee Davies and Edward Ta

What is the origin story of Pixel bar?

Both Lee and Ed walk us through how they met, through their mutual connection, fellow Pixel bar co-founder and university friend Craig Ryan, with the intention of opening their first site in Leeds.

They always wanted to open a gaming bar. Lee says putting gaming and hospitality together felt natural, and thy had a great first six months.

What are the services that Pixel bar provides?

Lee explains the bars each have booths containing PS5s, XBOXs and Nintendo Switches. They also have retro gaming set ups available. The sites also have a tricked-out sports gaming facility, a room with high-spec PCs and Screens. These can be used as an e-sport competition arena for societies or for rental.

How have you incorporated food and drink into your service offering?

Lee describes the gaming themed cocktails they have on offer. Pixel bar is a cocktail led bar but also benefits from partnerships with neighbouring food businesses who offer hands food to eat on the premises.

You have venues in both Manchester and Leeds. How has Pixel bar benefitted by its locations?

Lee says Leeds is an ideal place to launch a bar because of the friendly people and fantastic location. There was already a good gaming community in Leeds, and many communities utilise Pixel Bar’s services.

Manchester, home city of the co-founders, is a good city of or drinking and has a large student and young professional community.

Are you looking to expand?

Lee says the leadership team are looking to expand to Liverpool. He believes in Pixel Bar’s strong concept and a lot of people have commented they want Pixel Bar for their cities.

Liverpool is a great city, and when the team first went over there and saw the potential site, they were super excited.

How did COVID impact your business and are you still in recovery?

COVID was a really tough time for Pixel Bar, explains Lee. COVID coincided six months after the businesses formation, which would most commonly be a death sentence. Because of the guys’ determination and the rise of gaming, the business managed to see it through. The bar is only just getting over the affect of COVID and business is picking up.

Would you say competitive socialising is the future for hospitality?

Lee argues that competitive socialising harks all the way back to bowling alleys. The sector has grown as people want to get value for their time; they don’t want to just drink with their friends. Activities are more fun, engaging, and are great for groups.

Brick and motor pubs will survive and do well, but Lee sees the future in the shape of experiential bars.

What are the challenges as a venue owner within the hospitality industry?

Ed contemplates the challenges within the hospitality industry. They involve things the team cant control, such as  inflationary pressures, the cost-of-living crisis and the negative consumer trends.

How do you deal with spillages and damage to PCs and consoles?

Lee explains that many of their resident staff members are gamers, meaning they know how to repair controllers and keyboards. This saves costs as they don’t need to replace equipment too frequently.

The business has increased risk areas, handing over expensive tech to the general public. However they’ve tried to mitigate risks by putting consoles in locked boxes, people don’t have access to them. The bar has struggled with TV screen security, as they can get broken. They will now be integrating TV screens into the booths at their next Liverpool venue.

How has your experience with a previous broker and a poor claims process affected you?

Ed discusses the claim Pixel Bar made and the challenges they experienced with a previous broker:

“Working with a previous broker I thought everything was fine, but it wasn’t until we had a break-in to our PC room [that we realised it wasn’t]. The break-in was big. All the towers were taken which was really expensive, so we had to close this PC room down. Obviously because of the big cost factor, we couldn’t replace it immediately, so that did impact us for 2-3 months.”

“We put a claim in for the break in through our previous insurer with our former broker. That process was quite painstaking because they weren’t  keeping us in the loop, I had to chase them all the time. And it was at that point I contacted NDML.”

“Working with NDML, they realised that through our previous policy, we weren’t covered for everything which made the situation a lot harder. Unfortunately the claims didn’t materialise, we couldn’t claim for anything. The insurers found that we weren’t covered in the fine writings, therefore they didn’t payout.”

“Working with NDML, they went through the whole policy, making sure everything was covered point by point. We had the utmost faith and peace of mind that we were taking out a policy where we are covered for everything and protected if it happens again. Fingers-crossed it doesn’t.”

What the best part about running a hospitality and leisure business?

Lee says: “The best part about running a hospitality business is the people, on both sides of the bar. [You’ll be] Working with some of the best people you’ll ever meet. Bartenders are a wild breed, they are fun engaging.”

Ed says: “Within hospitality, things are more dynamic, more fun, more engaging in fact, where you can actually interact wit customer. For us, as the founders, we are huge gamers – so we can get on the same level [we have the same interests] as the customers and as the staff.”

Lee continues: “Working at Pixel Bar [in a gaming bar], it’s a completely different crowd [than at a standard late night business]. It’s a much more friendly and approachable crowd; they are there with the same ideas as you – myself being a gamer – hence there is much more interaction between us and the customers.”

“It’s fun, it’s really good fun to be part of the hospitality industry.”

NDML would like to thank Lee and Ed for their time and the all-access visitation we recieved. It was an absolute pleasure, and please continue the good work!

Watch more videos from #WeAreNightlife

What Is NDML’s Mission?

NDML has made it their mission to protect, safeguard and provide guidance to businesses in the hospitality and leisure sector. With inside information, case studies and up-to-date information on policy changes, NDML is a broker who cares about a business’s welfare and will celebrate their growth.

Our #WeAreNightlife campaign aims to provide a sound board for industry leaders to share their own unique experiences of British nightlife. NDML’s goal, alongside the NTIA, is to nit the UK nightlife scene back together after the turbulent COVID years and deliver steps to get the industry back up to full throttle.

NDML is the UK’s number one broker in the nightlife sector. We offer exclusive tailor-made policies and have decades of expertise. Our award-winning service is built upon genuine relationships, and that’s why projects, such as #WeAreNightlife, are so important to us.

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