Seven years ago, Falls Church resident Amy Smith was vacationing in France with her husband when she came across a pub hosting a trivia night.
“I was drawn to the camaraderie that the people at the table were having. The fun of everyone enjoying the quiz. The ups and the downs of when they get right or that they get wrong,” said Smith.
When Smith, 34, returned from her vacation, she suggested to the management at Ireland’s Four Provinces Restaurant, where she was tending bar, that they let her run a weekly trivia night. At the time, no Irish pubs in Northern Virginia were holding trivia nights so the management was skeptical. They eventually let her do it anyway, and it has turned into a win-win situation for both the restaurant and Amy.
According to restaurant manager Patrick Dunnegan, the busiest time for the restaurant on weeknights is when the weekly trivia night takes place.
When asked if it was a beneficial partnership, Dunnegan said “Absolutely. It brings a diverse crowd in. Large groups of kids will come up and fill up the restaurant.”
On Wednesday nights, as many as 60 teams of five people or less crowd into the dining area while waiters serve them food and drinks. Many of the same people come week after week in the same teams but Smith says it’s an opportunity for everyone to participate.
“If you’re by yourself, in the bar, you can get together and find someone to play with it. It’s a time when people can get together and socialize,” said Smith.
Smith has also tweaked the format of the pub quiz to make the event even more social. Rather than call out questions while teams write the answers, Smith hands each team a sheet of 30 questions and they have an hour to complete them.
“[When] one person calls out a question and it’s on the blank sheet of paper, you can’t talk to your friends [because] you have to focus on the trivia. With this, you focus on the trivia but then [at the same time] you get to hang out and talk.”
At the end of the hour, the teams exchange and score each other’s trivia sheets. A bonus question is used to break ties and the winning team is given a bag of prizes that varies from sports tickets, gift certificates, shirts and even a packaged tour of five Virginia Vineyards. The winning team is also entered into a tournament of championships held twice a year.
Having an entire hour to find answers gives teams an opportunity to look up answers on a Blackberry, textbook, or call someone via cell phone, but Smith is on the lookout for cheaters.
“I disqualify them if I catch them. I catch them quite often,” says Smith. “Which is funny, because it’s free and I don’t know why you’d cheat on a free quiz.”
Usually competitors work on a loose honor system and police themselves.
“I figure that we have to score extra high because we have to account for someone using a Blackberry,’ said a trivia regular from Vienna, Va. who was on a winning team this past August.
For Smith, trivia nights have become a second career and a way to supplement her daytime job as a massage therapist. In addition to being paid to run the trivia night at the Four Provinces, Smith has also copyrighted her trivia questions and sold them to four others bars in Washington D.C. and Front Royal.
She has compiled all the questions she has used into a book and regularly adds to it. She has a large library of books from which she draws from.
“I’m always looking for questions that I haven’t asked before. I’ll open up some book or [I’ll get ideas] if I’m watching the Discovery Channel,” said Smith who insists on using books and newspapers as sources rather than the internet.
In the internet age, where one can find out the answer to any trivial question in a mouse click, Smith proudly resists the temptation.
“I don’t do the internet. I do documented sources so it’s checked and proofread,” she explains.
Trivia Night takes place on 9 p.m., Wednesday nights at Ireland’s Four Provinces Restaurant at 105 West Broad Street in Falls Church.