As SimSig grows, finding suitable venues gets more and more difficult. At some point we may have to start limiting the numbers attending. It is thus ever more important to define what is a suitable venue. Sometimes what looks good from a visit in the evening turns out not to be so appropriate during the light of day. This page is an attempt to document some of those attributes.
Access to public transport is a must, and that generally means walking distance of a railway station (including tube and tram). Hub cities are more helpful as they limit the number of connections people travelling have to make - this can include Bristol, London, Birmingham, Manchester, York, Glasgow, etc.
All meets have so far been on a Saturday, with people arriving on Friday and leaving on Sunday. So if there is major engineering work at the weekend, that's not very helpful. A pub in the shadow of a football stadium is unlikely to be a good choice.
Having other facilities nearby is always helpful, such as suitable hotels and restaurants. Such hotels do not necessarily include Hiltons or Westins but more modest accommodation such as a Best Western franchise, B&Bs, Ibis, or independent hotels.
The venue ought to have an area that can be sectioned off from the public. This might be a roped-off area, an upstairs room, or some other way of showing that it's a private area.
The room must be able to seat at least 25 and stand at least an additional 25. The more tables and chairs the better. However, there should also be a lot of open space as seats and tables crammed in is not good. People move around a lot at meets so we need that circulating space.
Each table to be used for laptops should have a big surface area. Single-sided tables (e.g. pushed up against the wall) should be at least TBC inches/cm deep and at least TBC inches/cm wide per person. Double-sided tables should be at least TBC inches/cm deep with the same minimum widths.
The room layout should allow for numerous tables to be visible from a circulating area. This is so that people playing the games can be seen by those who simply want to watch, so viewing space is needed. In some cases the tables might be pushed up against the walls but that loses the other side of the table to wasted space.
Pillars, columns, and other immovable objects needs to be considered. If the room restricts how the tables can be laid out then it's going to be a problem.
Cable routes. Make sure that all the tables can get power without trailing cables over the floor. In some cases there might be opportunities to run cables over roof supports but this then creates the need for much longer cables. Networking is usually wireless these days.
Having a separate bar in the room is not essential but helpful if the room is a distance from the main bar. If there is a separate bar, check whether it'll be manned on the day - and if there is a charge for doing so.
Most pubs serve very similar sorts of things these days. Check the prices: if it's expensive for the area then that is not good. £3.50 for a pint in London might be normal but £3.50 in York is expensive. Check that soft drink prices aren't exorbitant, as some places seem wont to do.
Real ale is a requirement as so many people do drink it at meets. This doesn't mean Tetley's or John Smith's but traditional hand pulled pints. A couple of choices is sufficient.
Most venues cannot cater for a large group (40+) eating a la carte (i.e. ordering off a menu on the day). Even those that do allow a la carte usually require advance notice of what is going to be ordered. In the majority of cases it is better for everybody concerned to simply order a buffet.
Such a buffet should include sandwiches, savoury snacks, and maybe chips or potato wedges or crisps. The sandwich selection should be a mix of vegetarian, meat, dressed, and plain (i.e. no dressings of salad, salad cream, mayonnaise, pickles, mustard, or other condiments). The plain sandwiches are often the fastest to go. Savoury snacks might include quiches, pork pies, sausage rolls, samosas, onion bhajis, chicken bites, fish bites, etc. Expect to pay £6-£10 per head, maybe more in certain places.
When arranging for a buffet, it should be made clear that everybody attending will have to pay for the buffet, even if they choose not to eat. Trying to police a buffet where some people have paid and some haven't is a thankless and impossible task as previous attempts have shown. Keep it simple: everybody pays.
While the staff are bringing out the buffet, it would be prudent to stop people from eating until all the food is served. Try to encourage people to get a reasonable serving first then go back later for seconds, rather than piling plates high on the first serving.
Going back to the roped-off area, make sure the buffet is served in an area that the public cannot easily reach.
In the past we've advertised 12 noon to 6pm, with setup time from around 11:30, an actual multiplayer start time of 12:30 (varies wildly), and start packing up at 5:30pm. The region of five hours for a multiplayer seems to be around most people's limits.
Generally we have a meet in March, July, and November. Ensure that any dates picked do not coincide with large events locally, or railway engineering work in the immediate area or on a major inbound route.
Most places will take buffet payment on the day of the event, although some may require a deposit. Those serving a buffet usually require several days' notice. It is unreasonable for those that pay in advance to then have to share food with people who turn up on the day unannounced - an increase on numbers from 35 buffet heads to 45 turning up has happened and the rations have been limited. Therefore, as has happened with Derby 2011, it is best to have a cut-off date beforehand where everybody has to pay in advance to secure entry. Those who have not paid should be told to wait outside until after the buffet has finished.
Last edited by GeoffM on 15/09/2016 at 03:00