After 30 years of dwindling popularity, bingo is back, and places like STAX Wine Bar in Morro Bay are inviting everyone young and old to the party. Bingo, a game that randomly draws numbers that players match against numbers that are printed on five-by-five cards, has experienced a resurgence in popularity. A game that was once associated with retirement homes and church group events is now a thrill-seeking source of entertainment for an increasingly young, hipster crowd.
On the occasional Wednesday night at 6 p.m., players sit around STAX’s tables and purchase $20 of bingo cards. Three cards appear on one paper sheet per game. The wine bar hotspot aggressively promotes the event through Facebook. The rise of social media is credited as a reason why bingo is being appreciated by a younger audience.
A customer, 23, from Los Osos brought a couple of friends to Bingo Night. “I totally forced them to come,” she said. “They don’t realize bingo is ridiculously addicting. I told them, ‘It’s not grandma’s game anymore.'”
It’s truly sight to behold: players holding onto their ink dabblers with anticipation while using their free hand to sip fine sauvignon blanc and dine on black truffle-seasoned filet mignon crostinis.
Players can order food and drinks between and during games.
The image of elegance and prestige of fine dining on the waterfront quickly turns upside down when the crowd suddenly erupts into cheers and gleeful squeals. The first bingo number was called.
Bingo master Scott Crabtree announced the first number of the night. Immediately, half of the wine bar cheered and the other half booed. STAX Wine Bar owner Giovanni DeGarimore happily joined the choir of boos.
“I see we got a heckler in here,” said Crabtree, who glared at his mischievous friend. DeGarimore grinned and shrugged his shoulders as if he made no noise at all.
“You’re too slow, Crabtree! Let’s go, let’s go, let’s go!” shouted DeGarimore as soon as the bingo master turned away from him.
The audience began to chant Scott’s name, affectionately referring to him as “Scottie.” The bingo master would have none of it. He stood with a microphone in his hand, snarling at the crowd before flashing a smile and continuing the game as if nothing happened. Then Crabtree inundated the crowd with rapid-fire number calls, leaving no room for any tension to simmer.
Make no mistake: it was all in good fun.
Customers enjoyed the Abbott-Costello routines between DeGarimore and Crabtree throughout the evening.
At places STAX, bingo is more than an old-school favorite. It’s an attitude and an experience that keeps people on their toes for two hours. Yet time quickly flies as players wait eagerly for their desired number to be called.
While the sun slowly set over Morro Rock and the last remaining rays of sunlight shined brightly through STAX’s windows, the players turned silent. But as people’s bingo cards started looking like a giant ink blot, the crowd went wild.
Then suddenly, “BINGO!” A winner stepped forward with the winning card in her hand. She won the jackpot.
Many young people come to Bingo Night. Some attend because of the sheer adrenaline while others play for the prizes. At STAX, prizes range from gift cards to cash. The prize increases in value after each game. By the sixth and last game (“Blackout”), the cash prize is $100. But by the last game, players are too involved in matching the last missing number on their card.
When STAX had bingo night for the first time, the wine bar was packed. There was a rush to find a free table to sit at. Owner DeGarimore, a self-proclaimed novice at the game, sat and played the game with everyone else. He bought his own bingo cards and quickly mastered the game with a little help from his friends.
“Yeah, I’m feeling it,” he admitted. “It’s old-school, kinda, but not really. It feels new.”
STAX Wine Bar has Bingo Night on Wednesday nights from 6-9 pm. Bingo Night does not happen every Wednesday, so check their Facebook page for dates. For the best experience, call STAX Wine Bar 805-772-5055 to reserve a table, and purchase six games worth of bingo cards for $20. STAX is located at 1099 Embarcadero, Morro Bay.