One is that I kinda resent having to pay to play. There are other stores that have similar set-ups, are far more organised and don't charge. Why should I pay there when I can go to another store and not pay anything?
Well, the obvious answer is... if there isn't a good reason, why not go to the other store?
Presumably this store is expecting that the environment the offer - whether due to familiarity, location, convenience, atmosphere, etc - is worth paying the price.
For myself, I probably wouldn't pay to use a game store on a regular basis, simply because I generally game with friends as people's houses. For those without that option, the store wants some compensation for the use of their space, and it isn't an unreasonable concern. I have paid in the past in order to attend special events or game days or the like, and that seems fair.
In the end, if the price doesn't seem reasonable to you, you don't need to game there. That doesn't mean there is fault to be found in your decision or the stores - they are offering a product you don't feel is worth the price, and so you decline to purchase it. You are disappointed because they gave it away for free previously, and that's fair - but they are under no obligation to do so, and given the current economic environment and the difficulty of running game stores in the first place, their attempt to improve their profits is perfectly reasonable.
I'm presuming Kzach isn't going to move so he can/can't host games, so either he has a place right now that is suitable or he does not. Either way, that $5 that the store is charging represents an additional expense, over and above whatever rent/taxes he's currently paying.
Where I'm living at the moment there isn't a shared living area other than the kitchen so it's not suitable for gaming. Having said that, I'll also be moving out soon and will have an area available for gaming when I do. Outside isn't an option; I live in Melbourne, Australia, famous for having five seasons in one day, regardless of the time of year.
There's actually a chain of stores that run all sorts of games. They're much better organised as well. They run MtG tournaments for very large cash prizes as well as D&D Encounters and open Living games and private RPG games. Having said that, the atmosphere is far more... austere. One of the things I like about the shop that charges is that the set-up is very 'mom & pop', especially since the owners are a husband and wife with kids, both are gamer-geeks, and both love talking about all sorts of gaming and hobbies. It's certainly a preferable atmosphere.
As for the mention of cafes, there is also the fact that both venues serve coffees and snacks and they certainly seem to sell quite a bit of them.
Look at it this way. I discovered Duelling Grounds here in Toronto because it was the only store close to me that was participating in Free RPG Day....or, at least, that was listed on the Free RPG Day website.
So, I picked up my DCC RPG Adventure Starter for free. They didn't require that I buy anything. But, as I believe that it is unethical to take advantage of others, even when they let you (perhaps especially when they let you), I also picked up Ruins of Golarion at full price. So, they threw in We Be Goblins as well....unasked.
That's a good deal for me. That's a good deal for them. That's a good deal all around.
Your friends invite you to their home for dinner, you bring a bottle of wine. Or something. That's just good manners.
Quite possibly not - we might well decide to move, given how much we could stand to save. But that is a bit aside the point.
The point is that the features that make for a gaming space generally come at a cost. As RC says - the question seems to be if it is fair for them to charge. Given that the space comes at a cost, and for you yourself to have a space of your own would generally come at a cost, how is it not fair that you pay to use such a space?
Whether that payment is worth it to you personally is a separate question.
Well the shop charging needs to realize there are others doing the same for free and realize charging for the same thing could backfire. The shop owner that wants to charge needs to figure out how to give his shop an edge over the others - either cleaner, better organized game sign-ups, perks or something to make his shop the one to play at and worth paying for.
So the shop owner is fine to charge, but he needs to realize he needs to bring something else to the table with others are doing similar setups for free.
Because stores X, Y, and Z are trying to make a slim margin by effectively giving things away, it doesn't follow that those stores will remain in business. Shopping at Whalemart might seem cheaper in the short term, but the longterm cost might actually be far greater than the "savings" you are making now.
Deciding to go for free can backfire, too......when "free" goes out of business, and your choices mean that "pay" is gone, too.
There's no such thing as a free lunch. When someone is offering you one, you might want to consider what you'll end up paying. If you want something, but are unwilling to support it, I have no sympathy for you when it's gone.
One of the things I like about the shop that charges is that the set-up is very 'mom & pop', especially since the owners are a husband and wife with kids, both are gamer-geeks, and both love talking about all sorts of gaming and hobbies. It's certainly a preferable atmosphere.