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View Full Version : To those who have ever opened a Pool Hall or Bar...


juanbond
05-17-2006, 07:02 AM
What were your experiences in getting a pool hall up and running? A group of friends and I are considering pursuing this... I'm just looking for others' experiences and stories, really. Any advice is always welcome. What makes a great pool hall in your eyes? (I know what I like, but maybe not what Joe Cueman likes). What keeps you coming back to your favorite spots?

To those who have opened *any* kind of small business, please feel free to chime in, too! Any gems of business knowledge or interesting stories are welcome!

cueandcushion
05-17-2006, 12:30 PM
What were your experiences in getting a pool hall up and running? A group of friends and I are considering pursuing this... I'm just looking for others' experiences and stories, really. Any advice is always welcome. What makes a great pool hall in your eyes? (I know what I like, but maybe not what Joe Cueman likes). What keeps you coming back to your favorite spots?

To those who have opened *any* kind of small business, please feel free to chime in, too! Any gems of business knowledge or interesting stories are welcome!

If you are in Israel I would think the whole mentality of business, target demographics, laws concerning alcohol, age limits etc are all different. So a lot of advice you get here will be American influenced. These days pool rooms are in a lot of trouble in different areas of the country because of smoking bans, lawsuits over alcohol liability, saturated markets and such. The ONLY reason my room is still open is because the building is paid off. Alcohol is the number one profit maker in the industry right now. I would suggest getting some of the business literature the BCA offers on their website. I would also suggest working a lot of hours before you start hiring employees. If business is slow you can work for free to keep the room open. The employees wont do that. You will get a lot of suggestions on here.(Most suggestions will cost you money but wont MAKE you money, not for a long time) The number one thing you should remember is you MUST treat it like a business..not a hobby. All your friends and relatives will expect free pool or snacks or beer. This has sunk plenty of bars and restaurants and pool rooms. Good luck in the fight! and it WILL be a fight...:)

juanbond
05-17-2006, 04:55 PM
If you are in Israel I would think the whole mentality of business, target demographics, laws concerning alcohol, age limits etc are all different. So a lot of advice you get here will be American influenced. These days pool rooms are in a lot of trouble in different areas of the country because of smoking bans, lawsuits over alcohol liability, saturated markets and such. The ONLY reason my room is still open is because the building is paid off. Alcohol is the number one profit maker in the industry right now. I would suggest getting some of the business literature the BCA offers on their website. I would also suggest working a lot of hours before you start hiring employees. If business is slow you can work for free to keep the room open. The employees wont do that. You will get a lot of suggestions on here.(Most suggestions will cost you money but wont MAKE you money, not for a long time) The number one thing you should remember is you MUST treat it like a business..not a hobby. All your friends and relatives will expect free pool or snacks or beer. This has sunk plenty of bars and restaurants and pool rooms. Good luck in the fight! and it WILL be a fight...:)

Great advice here, thanks for the post!

I'm actually just temporarily in Israel, for work. I normally live in Danville or Champaign, Illinois. Anyhow, I'm in agreement with pretty much everything you said. Thanks for the tips! We have a liquor license and realize that selling alcohol is pretty much a key ingredient for success, like it or not. Anyways, there's definitely lots to think about!

Solartje
05-17-2006, 07:34 PM
If you are in Israel I would think the whole mentality of business, target demographics, laws concerning alcohol, age limits etc are all different. So a lot of advice you get here will be American influenced. These days pool rooms are in a lot of trouble in different areas of the country because of smoking bans, lawsuits over alcohol liability, saturated markets and such. The ONLY reason my room is still open is because the building is paid off. Alcohol is the number one profit maker in the industry right now. I would suggest getting some of the business literature the BCA offers on their website. I would also suggest working a lot of hours before you start hiring employees. If business is slow you can work for free to keep the room open. The employees wont do that. You will get a lot of suggestions on here.(Most suggestions will cost you money but wont MAKE you money, not for a long time) The number one thing you should remember is you MUST treat it like a business..not a hobby. All your friends and relatives will expect free pool or snacks or beer. This has sunk plenty of bars and restaurants and pool rooms. Good luck in the fight! and it WILL be a fight...:)

greath advice, double that.

Cuedog
05-17-2006, 08:18 PM
What were your experiences in getting a pool hall up and running? A group of friends and I are considering pursuing this... I'm just looking for others' experiences and stories, really. Any advice is always welcome. What makes a great pool hall in your eyes? (I know what I like, but maybe not what Joe Cueman likes). What keeps you coming back to your favorite spots?

To those who have opened *any* kind of small business, please feel free to chime in, too! Any gems of business knowledge or interesting stories are welcome!
I noticed that you mentioned a group of friends are considering pursuing this business venture. It also sounds like you haven't done a lot of research yet. I may be wrong. If you can do it, keep your friends by going into business on your own if you can swing it.

What I am eluding to is that even with only two of you, the need to have a perfect venue with many tables is evident here. Contrary to popular belief, pool halls are not exactly cash cows.

What size room are you thinking of?
What type clientele are you after?
Do you have a particular building in mind and will the landlord accept your intended use?

There are many questions. First thing I would do is to eliminate the potential partners that need to borrow from a traditional bank. Most banks have no interest in backing a pool hall. With the remaining partners, find out what they realistically can invest. I believe only then can you start the business planning.

So much can be said on this subject. Most of which will sound negative, but will only be the cold facts. Good luck my friend.

Gene

It's George Old Owner
05-17-2006, 08:24 PM
an impt aspect would be the players who hang out there..
u must get to know the ppl there n make friends w em..
interact n find out more on what players ard ur area r actually looking for..
u don't need to start out as the best choice but just start a simple pool hall :)

cueball1950
05-17-2006, 08:37 PM
I noticed that you mentioned a group of friends are considering pursuing this business venture. It also sounds like you haven't done a lot of research yet. I may be wrong. If you can do it, keep your friends by going into business on your own if you can swing it.

What I am eluding to is that even with only two of you, the need to have a perfect venue with many tables is evident here. Contrary to popular belief, pool halls are not exactly cash cows.

What size room are you thinking of?
What type clientele are you after?
Do you have a particular building in mind and will the landlord accept your intended use?

There are many questions. First thing I would do is to eliminate the potential partners that need to borrow from a traditional bank. Most banks have no interest in backing a pool hall. With the remaining partners, find out what they realistically can invest. I believe only then can you start the business planning.

So much can be said on this subject. Most of which will sound negative, but will only be the cold facts. Good luck my friend.

Gene

I have to agree with this post about multiple partners. a classic example would be the new pool room/ restaurant opened in Kingston NY. Before anybody could get in there to even play or have a joss event, like they had planned, the 2 partners got into it and the place is now closed. was a beautiful place from what i understand. had a beautiful pool room and a great restaurant...now because of some fighting this beautiful place is no longer....and that is a shame.....................mike

juanbond
05-18-2006, 12:39 AM
I noticed that you mentioned a group of friends are considering pursuing this business venture. It also sounds like you haven't done a lot of research yet. I may be wrong. If you can do it, keep your friends by going into business on your own if you can swing it.

What I am eluding to is that even with only two of you, the need to have a perfect venue with many tables is evident here. Contrary to popular belief, pool halls are not exactly cash cows.

What size room are you thinking of?
What type clientele are you after?
Do you have a particular building in mind and will the landlord accept your intended use?

There are many questions. First thing I would do is to eliminate the potential partners that need to borrow from a traditional bank. Most banks have no interest in backing a pool hall. With the remaining partners, find out what they realistically can invest. I believe only then can you start the business planning.

So much can be said on this subject. Most of which will sound negative, but will only be the cold facts. Good luck my friend.

Gene

I can see your point of view concering partners... I will think about it some more, but this is most likely not going to change.

One of my partners owns the building outright and is paid off in full, so this is not a concern. The room is not huge, but big enough for our town, I believe. We won't be needing much loan money, if at at all, by our accountant's estimation. We've got much of the plans laid out...just some details and designs need finishing. I guess what I was really after was general thoughts on what people like in pool halls. What are the characteristics of pool halls you like, and ones you don't like? Do you like a hall that has regular tournaments or not? What style of decor is most pleasing to the pool players out there? Things like that... Thanks for the input, it's greatly appreciated!!!

Gerry
05-18-2006, 04:43 AM
I've worked in a few pool rooms and none of them had a restaurant or booze, that's how it is in PA.

If I look at it from a players point of view, here's what they want....great tables, quiet music, action friendly, daytime specials, and an owner willing to "talk to" people who are ruining other peoples fun by yelling, or acting stupid.

From a business point of view....I could care less about players because they really don't spend a lot of money in the room. I'm not talking about your everyday steady money patrons/practice players. The big group of college kids, or late night younger people....SPEND MONEY. So of course they want loud music, cheap table time, and to be left alone while having fun, and spilling beer on your Simonis while giggling about it.

So I guess if I had a choice I'd open an old school room like Ames Mister!:D

but then again, I might go broke!

Gerry

ATH
05-18-2006, 05:44 AM
I'm not sure how it is in the US, but here in Norway most of the poolrooms are very family oriented. And a most of them are combined bowling and pool hall's and have a lot of other things in them like video games and air hockey. Most of them have beer and food for sale, some of the rooms have age limits at the evening. But the amount of pool players is small here in Norway, there is not enough players to support a room with only pool and nothing else. Unfortunately the combined rooms are not very pool friendly, with a lot of children and noise. Plus the tables get bad quick, because of people sitting on them and spilling things on them. We have some rooms that cater to players, and those are very nice with good tables and good atmosphere. But personally i like that you can buy beer, i like to enjoy one while playing.
I think that you as a room owner need to be strict and have rules that need to be followed when it comes to how people act in the room.

abbassi
05-18-2006, 05:46 AM
For Regulars, I would suggest a monthly pass ($150 to 200) or a daily pass of $15. If you can get people to sign up, which you should, at least they know how much it is costing them, and you will make additional money from food sales.
For the Kids and dates: Set up a Black light room (Glow in The Dark), totally insulated. You include a Juke Box, which you should own. Lady's night brings in the ladies and the boys follow.
You have to have an event on Monday, Tuesday, Wed., Thurs. and Sunday. Either a lady's night, tournaments, leagues or 1/2 price on one day. Give seniors a break on pool time to get a regular day crowd. Friday and Saturday should be good any way.
Try to get a Pro in the house, who plays for free to bring in action. Have a Pro Shop to fix tips, clean shafts and sell cues. Rep a local custom cue maker. Hold a cue raffle for a cue that retails around $200 (whole sale is less) every last friday of the Month. Sell tickets all month.
Try to involve local schools, maybe work out a deal to have kids come and play for physical education credits. Invite local Police and Firemen to the hall for benefits.
Invite people to a Poker tourney once a month on a sunday around noon. Just make money from food and then maybe they will play pool.
Just some of my ideas.
Good Luck.
PS. How is my old home town Jerusalem. I miss the valley where we picked figs and olives. I also miss the open market and the smell of the spices.

juanbond
05-18-2006, 06:02 AM
PS. How is my old home town Jerusalem. I miss the valley where we picked figs and olives. I also miss the open market and the smell of the spices.

I haven't spent a lot of time in Jerusalem lately (been travelling to Jordan and the Galilee), but when I was there it was as vibrant as ever. What a wonderful city!

Thanks for the poolroom suggestions, some great ideas there!

bud green
05-18-2006, 08:54 AM
200 bucks a month is pretty high for a membership.

I pay 40 a month but the equipment is not good and you can't play free after 7pm. After 7pm is where the owner makes most of his $$ so I don't have a problem with it.

College Billiards in San Diego was about 50-60 but that didn't include the snooker or three cushion tables.

75 a month is Monterey, CA was the highest I've seen but it was a real nice place and seemed worth it (Main Street Billiards, I think)

For 200 a month I'd have to have European billiard tables, Diamond pool tables, and a good snooker table. And I'd have to be able to play at night- not a good idea for the room owner if the room is busy. I just saw an ad for a Diamond table for 2000 so if a years membership is 2400 bucks, I'd probably just buy a table and play in the tourneys instead of pay for the membership.

Lots of beer specials and a very large bouncer is what I'd suggest to make $$

It's George Old Owner
05-18-2006, 09:09 AM
200 bucks a month is pretty high for a membership.

I pay 40 a month but the equipment is not good and you can't play free after 7pm. After 7pm is where the owner makes most of his $$ so I don't have a problem with it.

College Billiards in San Diego was about 50-60 but that didn't include the snooker or three cushion tables.

75 a month is Monterey, CA was the highest I've seen but it was a real nice place and seemed worth it (Main Street Billiards, I think)

For 200 a month I'd have to have European billiard tables, Diamond pool tables, and a good snooker table. And I'd have to be able to play at night- not a good idea for the room owner if the room is busy. I just saw an ad for a Diamond table for 2000 so if a years membership is 2400 bucks, I'd probably just buy a table and play in the tourneys instead of pay for the membership.

Lots of beer specials and a very large bouncer is what I'd suggest to make $$
u might wanna add hot chics too..then we all won't be able to play pool properly LOL

Cuedog
05-18-2006, 09:18 AM
What were your experiences in getting a pool hall up and running? A group of friends and I are considering pursuing this... I'm just looking for others' experiences and stories, really. Any advice is always welcome. What makes a great pool hall in your eyes? (I know what I like, but maybe not what Joe Cueman likes). What keeps you coming back to your favorite spots?

To those who have opened *any* kind of small business, please feel free to chime in, too! Any gems of business knowledge or interesting stories are welcome!
I can see your point of view concering partners... I will think about it some more, but this is most likely not going to change.

One of my partners owns the building outright and is paid off in full, so this is not a concern. The room is not huge, but big enough for our town, I believe. We won't be needing much loan money, if at at all, by our accountant's estimation. We've got much of the plans laid out...just some details and designs need finishing. I guess what I was really after was general thoughts on what people like in pool halls. What are the characteristics of pool halls you like, and ones you don't like? Do you like a hall that has regular tournaments or not? What style of decor is most pleasing to the pool players out there? Things like that... Thanks for the input, it's greatly appreciated!!!

I thought for sure you had solicited the opinions of those that would know the business side as well as those that would have ideas of what they would like. After almost 15 years in the business, I have a sense of what you will be up against. "CueandCushion" is a good source for this type of info as well.

Did your accountant also give you a cost analysis along with what it would take to pay your investors back? Are you all going to take a salary or are some of you okay with just a return on your money invested? There are tons of things to work out before the first ball is ever pocketed.

But, it seems to me that you already have your mind made up. I know how exciting the prospect of opening a new business, especially a pool hall, can be. I just think you are focusing in the wrong direction if the top questions on your list are things that YOU should already have a feel for if you plan to go into a business such as this.

It's just that after being in the business for so many years, it is my experience that people think it's easier than it really is my friend. I sincerely wish you huge success. Let us know how things work out. Would love to see you make it work.

Gene

Colin Colenso
05-18-2006, 09:55 AM
This advice might cost you some to implement, but here it is anyway.

A major thing that stops me from staying in pool clubs for extended periods and taking in friends for the evening is bad seating, drink tables and service, and perhaps a more social area for watching...like a main table with good players matching up that you can watch.

With the seating: Have seating that is bar stool height. Even bar stools around small round tables or some shelf tables that can sit a larger group. Or you can put smaller tables together so 6-8 people can sit around drinking and eating comfortably while taking turns to play at the table. The higher seats make them easier to get in and out of which conserves the player's energy and gives them a better view of the table and the whole room.

juanbond
05-18-2006, 11:35 AM
I thought for sure you had solicited the opinions of those that would know the business side as well as those that would have ideas of what they would like. After almost 15 years in the business, I have a sense of what you will be up against. "CueandCushion" is a good source for this type of info as well.

Did your accountant also give you a cost analysis along with what it would take to pay your investors back? Are you all going to take a salary or are some of you okay with just a return on your money invested? There are tons of things to work out before the first ball is ever pocketed.

But, it seems to me that you already have your mind made up. I know how exciting the prospect of opening a new business, especially a pool hall, can be. I just think you are focusing in the wrong direction if the top questions on your list are things that YOU should already have a feel for if you plan to go into a business such as this.

It's just that after being in the business for so many years, it is my experience that people think it's easier than it really is my friend. I sincerely wish you huge success. Let us know how things work out. Would love to see you make it work.

Gene

Shot down?

Yes, I'm certainly after advice on all aspects of this venture. It's just that I've been over the "its hard to open a pool hall...there's a lot of factors" conversation countless times in the recent past, and I decided perhaps I was more after thoughts from the patron's perspective on this forum. I'm well aware that there are many things to work out, and that opening a business is not easy. I agree, most people think it's far simpler than it is. Yes, our accountant has prepared all kinds of analyses for us, as well as lots of guidance from the folks at the small business administration in town.

Believe me, we do have a good feel for many of the aspects of this idea. After all, we're pool players, too! We've done a heck of a lot of homework on the idea. I think maybe you assumed that because I was asking these general and basic questions that I didn't already have some semblance of the answers in my head already... I'm simply here asking for *more* advice. Supplemental, if you will. It's not that these are my top questions, simply ones I've asked many other people over the past many months. It's never too late to gather more opinions and information, is it?

It's not even 100% that we will go forward with this. It's just that my friends building space may become unused and available, so we began planning out the idea. I do appreciate your concern and well-wishing. Thanks for the post!

bamashooter
05-18-2006, 12:41 PM
well i have had a pool room before so i can tell you it is a rough business to get into ifyou dont have the money to back you., So let me give you my advice, first off if you can get away wiht not leasing your tables then do it that is whre i messed up was renting my tables from someone else. and make sure your room is in a location that is easy for everyone to get too. Also what ever you do dont ever make the mistake adn let a band talk you into playing in there cause it will do nothing but take the business away from your tables and draw the wrong kind of attention to your pool hall. also make sure that that the city council doenst have a problem with you opening a pool hall in your area. sometimes they will say yes then after you are opened they will try to come up with any kind of excuse to shut you down. thats all i have for now.

cueandcushion
05-18-2006, 01:03 PM
I noticed some other suggestions and would like to comment on them.

Ladies night- Check your state for gender-based pricing laws, this makes it illegal in 12 states( I think that is the current number) to have different prices for men and women. Some states are prosecuting..some are just civil court cases. Absurd? Yes, Expensive? Possibly.

Jukebox- If you own yours make sure to be up to date on Royalty payments or face HUGE fines. Fines are based on EACH TIME A SONG IS PLAYED. I would suggest letting a vendor take care of it or use the new ONLINE version jukebox that bills you automatically.

College kids- Go after them like you would a naked supermodel. They will single handedly pay your overhead for you. Advertise in college papers, flyers etc. Give them coupons. Put up a sign on Wednesday (ABC university night- First drink free) Thursday night (XYZ Tech School night) etc. Find the closest big schools and make YOUR place where they want to hang out away from campus. But what you have to remember is that 30% of kids graduate or leave college every year so you will have to be vigilant in advertising with them.

BrooklynMike
05-19-2006, 04:23 AM
I would keep in mind that with a group of people running a business, you could easily end up with too many chefs in the same kitchen. The more people you have involved, the more disputes there will be.

As for the actual place, make sure you have a decent amount of space between tables. I specifically avoid some pool halls here because the tables are so close together, 50% of the tables aren't going at any one time because of people having to wait for each other to get out of the way. One idea that could work is a ladies night, where women play for half-price or something, which could draw guys in, or even persuade guys to use it as a date spot. And if you have room, get a ping-pong or air hockey table.

Tinbender
05-19-2006, 04:25 PM
Having owned a poolhall for almost 2 years now I will offer my .02 cents worth since that's all I have left. As stated before if you can own your own tables, do it. If we did'nt we would have closed by now .If this is a family type place like ours ,don't serve alcholol. the kids won't come in or can't.The problem with that is the kids don't have alot of money to spend so don't get down when there are nights that are not busy.We have considered putting beer in but the liability is so high. you would be taking a chance - no kids vs not enough adults. Our intent ,(I have a partner) was a place for kids to have something to do instead of running the streets.We have a bunch of great kids and you need to get to know them and make them feel wanted there.we also wanted a place where we could all get together and play pool ourselves. ( played alot of pool/snooker in the last 18 months). A good jukebox with good music is a must with kids,our cut makes our rent every month or close to it.We both have day jobs, we don't rely on the poolhall as our only incomes.Try to have weekly tournaments and bigger entry fee calcutta tournaments at least once a month. We do 8-ball then 9-ball and sometimes throw in a scotch doubles on sundays.(a two day deal).We don't have a kitchen but we serve pizza and sandwiches,snacks and pop.We have hourly rates on all our tables and on Sat. nights we charge 5.00 from 8-12 per person to play pool .works pretty good most of the time since most teenagers are busy talking instead of playing pool.they might play 3 games an hour at .75 vs 5.00 per person.most of the time there are 3 or more on one table so the math is easy. anyway just some ideas and good luck P.S. have fun, we are

Captain Dan
05-20-2006, 03:35 AM
The local hall in Ballarat, Australia is the main sponsor of our local league comp. It offers a 6 month membership for $50, which entitles you to pay only $5 a night for play instead of $10/hr, and $1 off all alcoholic beverages. I understand that there are over 200 members, and with 24 tables, is full for 3-4 nights a week by 10pm.

I enjoy it because of the space, and tables and chairs near EVERY table, and the fact they don't charge a premium for alcohol, unlike many late night venues here.

Daniel:D

juanbond
05-20-2006, 03:46 AM
My thanks to everyone who replied with valuable info and suggestions!!!

Lots of great stuff here, to be sure!