A Quick Pool Table Guide for Your Bar

Having a pool table or a billiards room in your bar can help to increase your marketability by offering visitors an enjoyable activity to pass the time. Billiards tables, however, even small tables, take up a fair amount of space, so before you rush out to get one, you want to make sure that the amount of space it takes up is worth the amount of space lost from it presence. You should also be aware that not all bar designs are conducive to the pool table experience.

Types of Pool Tables

Just like in Goldilocks, pool tables come in basically three sizes. The very smallest pool tables (outside of pool tables designed for small children, of course) are roughly 3.5 feet by 7 feet. Even the most casual player will find this kind of a pool table rather small. If you really must have a pool table but don’t have the room, you might get this table, but it is not the kind of table that you would feature in your advertisements. In other words, no one is coming to your pub to play on this little table.

On the other end of things is the professional pool table. This is the kind of pool table that the pros use for tournaments, and they are approximately 4.5’ by 9’. These are grand sized tables are expansive, expensive, and often filled with all the bells and whistles you might expect from such a table. (There are actually larger tables, 6’x12’ monsters but these feel more like felt lakes than billiards tables. Unless you want to market your whole theme around this—as in, “Let’s go to that giant billiards table bar”—you probably have no use for this kind of a table.) The drawback to the professional sized billiards table is obvious—it takes up a lot of room that could be used for seating more customers. If, however, you are lucky enough to have a large space and want to go with a pool hall theme for your bar, you could get half a dozen of these pro tables and cash in on that twenty something crowd of young males who love to play at being pool sharks like Tom Cruise in the Color of Money.

For most pubs and bars, however, the 4’ x 8’ table is the ideal. In fact, so perfect is this pool table a fit for watering holes of all varieties, that it has come to be called, the “bar pool table.” This is the common name for it, and a particular type of game, Bar Pool, has developed around it.

4’ x 8’ just seems to be the perfect amount of room to make the casual player feel as if they are playing at a full sized table, but not so big that the size requirements become prohibitive. (Pro players, however, will tell you that a bar pool table is harder to play than a professional sized table because of the way the balls tend to bunch on such tables. Basically, it makes it difficult for a player who knows what he or she is doing to run the table after breaking.)

Space Requirements

So how much space do you need to have your standard bar pool table? The recommendation is that you have 5’ of clearance all the way around the table in order for the players to be able to handle the pool sticks. Why 5’ feet? Because a standard sized pool stick is just short of 5’. That means you have to add 10’ (5’ on each side) to the dimensions of the table. So, a room that holds your standard bar pool table would need to be at least 14’ x 18’. Of course, many bars can’t spare that much space, so they put movable bar stools around the table, or leave inconveniently placed poles right where players might need to shoot. Sometimes the bar space simply doesn’t allow a pure billiards space.

The Dixie Chicken in College Station, Texas

The other aspect of space you will want to consider is how you will get the pool table into your establishment. If you have a particularly, unusual space, with narrow entrances or awkwardly narrow stairs, this may make delivering the pool table(s) a bit of a challenge. Consider these requirements beforehand.

Revenue Considerations for Bar Pool Tables

You should also consider how much revenue you will lose by having that much space taken up by a pool table. If you have a fairly small bar, can you afford to have 252 square feet (14’x18’) taken up by a pool table. This is space that will be occupied by maybe two to four people, who might have some drinks while they play, but it is also a space that will not be occupied by a possible booth or intimate bar tables, or a dance floor, most of which allow more customers. So, a pool table is great if you have the space to support it, but a real financial drain if it makes your small space even smaller (and less profitable).

You should also consider how you will manage the table/s. One way that bar owners use the table to increase revenue is by charging customers to use it. Generally, this is done on a per game basis, but if you chose to do so, you will have to have a method of keeping track. Do you want to charge by the half hour, or by the game? Do you monitor this by having customers’ sign out the balls or by simply allowing them to use the honor system.

Some bar owners simply use coin operated bar pool tables where customers insert coins or tokens for each game. When the table is fed, it spits out the balls. As the players sink the balls, the table traps them. (By the way, if you have ever wondered, the reason the table does not trap the cue ball is because the cue ball is slightly larger than the others. Professional players note that this is the reason why playing on these tables is even harder, because the combination of the larger cue ball and smaller table makes it harder to squeeze shots past interference.)

Bar Pool Table Accessories

Don’t forget that you will also need to supply cue sticks, rackers (if the table doesn’t include them), a cue stick rack (preferably mounted to the wall) and, if you really want to create the cool pool hall effect, the center hanging pool hall lights.

Finding the Pool Table

Pool tables are expensive, sometimes running as much as three or four thousand dollars. You should, however, be able to find one for about a grand, new (half that or less used). If you shop around online you can probably find a good deal. However, there are two drawbacks to buying off the internet. One is the fact that you can’t try the table out to see if it actually feels like the kind of table that will last in your bar. The other problem is the very expensive cost of shipping a pool table—it is usually a couple of hundred dollars in shipping alone.

The benefit of buying from a local retailer is that you can usually get a good sense of the table beforehand. You can shoot some balls on it and lean against it and see how well-crafted it is. You may not save as much in shipping as you think, however. Be sure to ask beforehand how much it costs to deliver the table to your place. Often this costs one hundred or more dollars, making the difference with shipping not so great. Of course, if you have your own truck or are willing to rent a Uhaul for half a day, you might be able to circumvent this cost.

Tip From the Pros: One other way that you might save money is to start your search for a pool table early and look for used pool tables at used furniture stores and on Craig’s list postings. Unfortunately, what you will often find are good tables where the felt has worn out. If you are good with your hands and have some sense of how to use tools, you may actually be able to replace the worn out top and make it seem much newer and better kept. Well worth the effort for the cost savings.

Pool tables like darts and other bar entertainments can really add new dimension and energy to a bar that feels a little bland and overly homogeneous. So if you want to create an area of the bar where the boys hang out, or where double dates drink, makes jokes, and funny drinking wagers, a pool table (or a set of pool tables) might be the way to go.

Filed Under: Bar / Nightclub BusinessBar / Nightclub CostsBar / Nightclub DesignBar BusinessStarting a BarStarting Your Bar/Nightclub Business


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