“It’s been almost three years since the Kickstarter,” recounts Lee, one of the co-founders of soon-to-open board gaming café and bar Dice Portsmouth. “We almost gave up twice. This location alone has taken eight months of negotiation.” He’s sitting in one of the kitschy booths lining the cigarette smoke-stained walls of what was once the Southsea Conservative Club. You know the place — it almost became a strip club.
Sited at 149 Albert Road, right next to The Wedgewood Rooms, Dice’s long-time-coming home is much bigger than the façade suggests. It might not look like much now, but plans show a totally renovated frontage complete with big windows and a shopfront. “We’re gonna have a dedicated retail space, selling board games, collectables, that sort of thing,” Rikki, another of Dice’s co-founders, tells me as he hammers old wood off the walls.
Dice originally aimed to launch in December 2015 following a tremendously successful Kickstarter campaign, during which 276 backers pledged money to help Lee, Rikki, and the rest of the team realise their dream of opening Portsmouth’s first social space centred around board gaming. Thus began a series of testing let-downs from landlords of potential properties, including sites on Grove Road South and Elm Grove.
Looking around the old Southsea Conservative Club building, though, it’s hard to imagine a more perfect location. As a backer myself, I remember Rikki telling me a few years back that the ideal venue would be roughly 20% kitchen and bar space and 80% gaming space, and that’s exactly what their new home offers — and then some. There’s even a stage area which lends itself effortlessly to Dice’s hundreds-strong board game library.
What’s more, Dice will naturally slot into the growing community of independent businesses shaping that end of Albert Road and Highland Road — others include The Merchant House and Need Street Food, Hunter Gatherer Coffee, The Beer Musketeer, and Hounds Barbers.
“For me,” Rikki continues, casting a judging eye over the former upholsterer’s overt zealousness to wield a staple gun, “the hardest part has been knowing this place is a contender for nearly a year, but not being able to talk about it.”
Lee, Rikki, and fellow Dice co-founder Andy have been expressing their gratitude to all the crowdfunders for sticking with them over a challenging three years, and to everyone who attended their many board gaming events at other local venues during the property hunt.
“We’re looking to open late summer,” Lee concludes triumphantly. “As for the food and drink, we’ll be sourcing it locally as much as we can. We love Staggeringly Good Beer and Bread Addiction.” Gaming tournaments are on the cards, too, plus many other ideas.