A bevy of drinks, late-night meals and endless conversations flows through The Chimes Restaurant and Taproom each Monday night.
The Chimes’ trivia night is the result of a perfect match — a location and a company operating without flaw since the beginning.
“We were brought in for Mondays (at 10 p.m.) for a specific reason,” says trivia host Mike Hatfield. “We’re like a band. We fill in two or three hours and make that two or three hours busy or busier than it currently is.”
Hatfield is the owner of MonkeyBR, a company specialized in hosting trivia nights for different bars in the Baton Rouge area. The company now serves 11 locations, but nothing compares to the attendance or notoriety at the Let’s Get Quizzical trivia night at The Chimes. The event will mark its sixth anniversary on Monday.
Hatfield remembers opening night, when competition was restricted to the bar area. Despite the restrictions, 16 teams showed up, forcing the restaurant to expand its competitive “arena.”
Hatfield said trivia expanded to tables near the waiting area, followed by tables in the Varsity Theatre. Three months in, The Chimes was forced to add sound in the entire restaurant and give the whole lot to Hatfield and his co-workers.
The large crowds have caused busy Monday nights at the Northgate staple. For waitress Sarah Lanzetta, the bustling nights are more fun than exhausting.
“It’s not just work. We are getting to play and we are getting to have fun,” she said. “The bond with the competitors we serve makes everyone happier too. Everyone is in a good state and having fun.”
The festive scene she describes is something Hatfield touched on when he participated in TedxLSU on Feb. 28.
In his talk, Hatfield detailed his philosophy on trivia, believing it is not about trying to win every week but instead about creating an ideal social atmosphere. With a guaranteed debate for every question, he said the night creates “automatic ice breakers” within the group.
The larger competitions at Let’s Get Quizzical follow similar rules: No groups larger than seven and no use of cellphones. This doesn’t stop some contestants from attempting to cheat and Hatfield is prepared for those situations.
Indications of foul play may come from other teams spotting a group with too many members, or a relatively unknown team doing suspiciously well. Hatfield will either send Chimes employees like Lanzetta or go himself to spy on the accused team and see if anything is going on.
It’s not a process Hatfield wants to do, but one he has to do to maintain the game’s integrity.
“If it’s somebody who’s new and doing well, we’ll try to just check them down. If they continue to do it and we know they’re doing it, we just won’t announce them in the rankings.”
At a recent competition, one of the weekly prize winners was the group “Let’s Make Groceries,” last semester’s overall champion. Group member and LSU graduate student Brian Watson enjoys the rewards, but admits the group mainly participates for the positive social aspects.
Something at Chimes trivia compels people to be socially comfortable as they test what they know, sometimes growing closer to members of their group. “It’s just the combination of hanging out with your friends in this friendly environment,” Watson said. “The stakes are low, but you can still win free beer.”