A nonprofit publication of the Kentucky Center for Public Service Journalism

Newport-based Last Call Trivia popular attraction in Northern Kentucky and throughout the country

By Kevin Eigelbach
NKyTribune reporter

What’s the third-most populous city in the world’s third-most populous country?

If you said “Chicago,” give yourself a pat on the back.

This was the scene earlier this month at a trivia night at Longneck’s in Wilder hosted by Newport-based Last Call Trivia (provided photo).

That’s the favorite trivia question of Northern Kentucky resident Adam Johnston, because it requires you to know two things: that the United States is the world’s third-most populous country, and that Chicago is our third-most populous city, behind New York City and Los Angeles.

Knowing trivia is Johnston’s business. Literally.

Along with Drew Turner, he’s the founder of Newport-based Last Call Trivia, which creates and runs trivia and Family Feud-like games for bars and corporate events across the country.

A typical trivia night involves six rounds of three questions each. Participants wager points based on how well they think they know the answers. They play in teams, and are provided time to agree on an answer before they turn it in.

In league play, teams that score well get invited to regional championships and possibly the annual national championship tournament, which happens next spring at the Northern Kentucky Convention Center.

Among Last Call’s customers is Longneck’s, which has bars in Hebron, Richwood and Wilder. Last Call’s contests have proven to be a great draw, Longneck’s co-owner Eric Anthonissen said.

Last Call Trivia founders Adam Johnston (left) and Drew Turner have turned a national fascination with answering questions in bars into a successful business venture (provided photos).

Seven years ago, when Longneck’s hired Last Call to do trivia contests on Tuesday nights, it was the bar’s slowest night of the week. Now, Anthonissen said, Tuesday’s are the bar’s biggest night, bigger even than Friday or Saturday.

The trivia contests attract people who normally wouldn’t come to the bar, he added. The trivia leagues that Last Call offers bring better marketing and a better-recognized brand than one bar could offer on its own, he said.

Last Call does contests in about 240 bars now, Johnston said, earning about $1.5 million in annual revenue. It has 10 full-time employees, plus a national network of about 200 part-time question writers and part-time contest hosts in various cities.

In the language of startups, Johnston and Turner “bootstrapped” the company using their own funds and company revenue.

It started in 2007, when they were playing a trivia game at an Applebee’s restaurant in Charleston, S.C., and decided it was something they could do themselves. They did two free shows for local bar owners that summer in their native Cincinnati, and Champions Grill became their first customer. A 10-venue contract with Applebee’s quickly followed.

Some of those early days were anxious. Johnston remembers waiting by his mailbox every month for a check from Applebee’s, which he would rush to the bank.

He had never run his own company before, and the experience taught him much more than he learned in business school. “I learned the value of people,” he said. “But also, how difficult they are to deal with.”

He’s proud of the company culture he and Turner have created, he said, and it makes him very happy when staff members say they’re “locked in for life.”

It’s a relaxed culture. There’s a bar in the lobby of the company’s office. Johnston walks around barefoot, and staff work flexible hours. The company recently advertised to hire an “investigative triviologist,” and invited applicants to send in their favorite trivia question.

The company has an ambitious goal – to get its contests into 10,000 bars across America. To help make that happen, it’s working on finding people who want to host trivia nights in particular cities once or twice a week.

“We give them all the tools we need,” Johnston said. “All they have to do is solicit bars.”

Contact the Northern Kentucky Tribune at news@nkytrib.com

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