Dave & Buster’s coming to Bell Tower Shops in south Fort Myers
Dave & Buster’s, where you can eat, drink, play games and watch sports, is coming to Bell Tower Shops in south Fort Myers.
In what seemed like the worst-kept secret in town, the video arcade and restaurant will occupy the 40,000-square-foot end-cap space at the north end of the shopping complex once filled by Saks Fifth Avenue and occasionally since by seasonal retail stores.
The Dallas-based company is billed as an American restaurant and entertainment business. As of March, it had 110 locations in the United States and Canada.
This is the chain's first location in Southwest Florida and could be a spark for the Bell Tower, which is undergoing a "comprehensive redevelopment."
The nearest Dave & Buster's locations to Fort Myers are those in Brandon (near Tampa), one in Orlando and two on the east coast, in Hollywood and Miami.
A public record from the Lee County Clerk of Courts shows a memorandum of lease between Bell Tower Shops LLC and Dave & Buster’s of Florida Inc. for the space.
When retailers close large stores or go out of business, operators of malls and strip centers have to get creative to fill the spaces or break them up into smaller spaces. The national trend has escalated in recent years and it’s likely to grow.
The lease was executed by the tenant Dec. 19, 2017, and by the landlord on Jan. 11. The lease is for 15 years, with the possibility of it being extended.
It is signed by Jay Tobin, senior vice president and general counsel of Dave & Buster’s, and John Elliott, chief financial officer of Madison Marquette, operator of the Bell Tower Shops.
Dave & Buster’s did not return calls for comment and representatives for Madison Marquette declined to comment, so there’s no word on how long the buildout is expected to take and when the location might open.
The most similar offering in Lee County is GameTime, which opened at Gulf Coast Town Center in December 2015. The HeadPinz Entertainment Center, which opened in the summer of 2015 on Treeline Avenue near the airport, also comes to mind.
There is also a Chuck E. Cheese’s location on U.S. 41, north of Page Field, but it is kid-focused and does not offer a full-service restaurant.
Britt Beemer, a retail analyst with America’s Research Group, said it all comes down to foot traffic, particularly in a shopping center where retail dominates the store mix.
“The problem with malls and shopping centers is that if someone isn’t buying a lot of clothes, they’re not coming back so often,” he said. “People need reasons to go there more often.”
This move is expected to spur more families to visit and maybe do a little shopping or take in a movie while they’re there.
A trend during the past years is for such centers to offer more food and beverage options, so the goal for the Bell Tower Shops is to greatly bolster that category. The industry average is 35 to 40 percent, according to Whitney Livingston of Madison Marquette, while the Bell Tower is at 17 percent.
“If you’re a retail-only shopping center, you’re in trouble because consumers aren’t buying your products as much as they were five years ago,” said Beemer, as online retail has taken off.
The Bell Tower is not alone when it comes to keeping up with the times to compete as newer venues open. A Whole Foods Market will anchor the new Daniels Marketplace, to open down the street later this year.
“Everybody’s trying to figure a way to get people back in the center,” Beemer said. “This new Dave and Buster’s is hopefully going to revive that area, and people will go in. Is it a great idea? It probably is. There’s probably no one else who wants 40,000 square feet. It may not be the customer they used to have, but that customer is gone anyway.”