dirty 20 nerd bar in ballwin photo by zachary linhares

Dirty 20 Nerd Bar now open in Ballwin with a focus on Dungeons & Dragons

If you were opening a bar designed to be a hub for tabletop games and nerd culture, you might decide that there could be no better day to open for business than May 4. "May the Fourth be with you" puns have been an important play on Star Wars dialogue going all the back to 1979 and the reign of British Iron Lady Margaret Thatcher (yes, really). 

But as it turns out, that's not why husband-and-wife team Jason Moughton and Ruth Camburn opened their new Dungeons & Dragons-focused eatery, Dirty 20 Nerd Bar at 14051 Manchester Road in Ballwin, on May 4. For that, you can blame the health department.

As Moughton tells it, the couple has worked for months to renovate an old Hotshots franchise and won approval for their plans back in October. But as they geared up to open two months ago, the health department suddenly had a new demand. "They made us put a ceiling over the bar area," Moughton said. "They consider it a food prep area."

"If not for that, we would have opened in March or April," he said.

But not only is the new opening day an auspicious one, Moughton admits the health department's directive ended up being a good call, aesthetically. Of the ceiling, he said, "I hate how much I love it." 


from left, managers joe mounce and justin mills and owners jason moughton and ruth camburn // photo by zachary linhares



Moughton and Camburn have been plotting their restaurant/bar since 2019, when they (along with countless other Americans) fell in love with Dungeons & Dragons. The game saw a huge pandemic-era resurgence, and the couple began to get serious about drawing up plans for a place where people can play not just D&D but any number of tabletop games. 

In addition to a full bar, the couple plans to offer a roster of customizable mac and cheeses, as well as sliders, flatbreads, salads and some fried food, making Dirty 20 Nerd Bar a place not just to play a game but to hang out for hours.

For the time being, though, they'll be offering a stripped-down version of the menu. Moughton noted that they're holding off on sliders for now: "We want to work out the kinks before we roll out the full menu." They're also, unfortunately, unable to serve booze just yet, since their liquor license application is still pending approval, but they're hoping for approval by early June. The couple is ready to roll the dice and see where the winds of fortune take them. "We're charging forward," Moughton said.

Dirty 20 Nerd Bar is open Tuesday, Wednesday and Sunday from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m., with hours on Thursday, Friday and Saturday from 11 a.m. to 1:30 a.m. All of that could change, Moughton noted, depending on what customers want and when they show up.

"We're going to pay very close attention to what our community wants," he promises. "If nobody wants mac-and-cheese, we'll nix that. Hopefully not, and hopefully people want my mac-and-cheese. But we want to make sure we're building this space for the community, not just for ourselves."

This article was originally published by the Riverfront Times.