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How to Start a Pool Hall

How to Start a Pool Hall

Pool is a fun and popular game played in homes and bars across the country.  If you are a pool player, you can turn your passion for the game into a business and start your own pool hall.  It’s a great opportunity to get into a niche market, have fun, and make a living as your own boss.

Business Overview

A pool hall offers pool tables and equipment to customers for a fee in a fun setting and usually has a bar and food service.  Some have events and tournaments and pool leagues for customers as well.

Industry Summary

According to IBIS World, the market size of the pool hall industry is $742.4 million as of 2021 and is expected to grow 1.1% during the year.  The market has declined 7% per year over the last five years.  The industry was affected by the pandemic in 2020 due to social restrictions but is expected to rebound moderately.

Pool halls became popular in part due to movies such as “The Hustler” and “The Color of Money” but have declined in popularity in the last 5 years.  Post pandemic, however, they are expected to rebound.  Because the popularity has declined, you will need to have unique marketing and branding to attract customers.

Target Market

Your target market will be people who enjoy playing pool in a social setting, however, younger males under 35 tend to make up a majority of the customer base.

Skills, Experience, and Education Useful in Running a Pool Hall

There are several specific skills that you will need to open a pool hall.

  • Experience.  Experience working in a pool hall or a bar will be valuable so that you already know the ins and outs of the business.
  • Business knowledge and experience.  You will need to have some basic knowledge of marketing, finance/accounting, and human resources.
  • People skills. You’ll need to be able to build rapport with your customers so that you retain them as customers and keep them coming back.

Checklist for Starting a Pool Hall

If you’re thinking about starting your own pool hall, there are a few things you should keep in mind. Here is a checklist of the essentials to get started.

Step 1: Write a Business Plan

There are a few key elements that you will need to include in your pool hall business plan in order to ensure its success. First, you will need to clearly outline your business goals and objectives. What are you hoping to achieve with your pool hall? How many tables do you hope to have? What kind of atmosphere do you want to create?

Next, you will need to come up with a detailed marketing plan. How will you attract customers to your pool hall? What kind of promotions and discounts will you offer? How will you distinguish your business from the competition?

You will also need to outline your financial projections. How much money do you anticipate making in your first year of business? What are your start-up costs? What are your operating expenses? How much do you expect to earn in revenue?

Last but not least, you will need to create a detailed management plan. Who will be responsible for what tasks? Who will make decisions about the day-to-day operations of the pool hall? Who will handle customer service?

By taking the time to carefully plan out each of these aspects of your business, you will increase your chances of success and ensure that your pool hall is a profitable venture.

Related: How to write a business plan

Step 2: Name the Business

Finding the perfect pool hall name can be challenging. Not only does the name have to reflect what you do and be appealing to customers, but it also has to be available to use. You can check your state’s website to see if the name is available and register your name.  Your name should make you stand out, reflect your brand, and tell potential customers exactly what you do.

Related: Tips and ideas for naming a pool hall

Step 3: Form a Business Entity

A business entity refers to how a business is legally organized to operate. There are four primary business entities to choose from, which include the sole proprietorship, partnership, corporation, and Limited Liability Company (LLC). Each type of entity has its own pros and cons, such as liability exposure, costs, and administrative requirements.

When deciding on which business entity is best for a pool hall, it normally comes down to the sole proprietorship and Limited Liability Company.

A partnership opens the owners up to unnecessary personal liability because if a partner does something to get the business sued, or runs off with cash from the business, the other partners are personally liable to repay. The corporation can be a good choice because it separates the business assets from the owner’s assets. If the corporation is sued or certain business debts can’t be paid back, the owners aren’t personally responsible to repay them. The downside to the corporation is that it is more complicated than all the other entities and requires more administration than the LLC. If you plan on raising a lot of investment though, the corporation is usually the better choice.

That leaves the sole proprietorship and LLC.

The sole proprietorship is the least expensive and easiest entity to start which is appealing. The downside is the owner is personally liable should anything happen to the business, which is an important consideration. The LLC offers the ability to operate as a sole proprietorship with the liability protection of a corporation. Depending on the state, the cost to form an LLC runs from $40 – $500, which is pretty inexpensive for protecting the owners from business-related lawsuits and certain debts.

Related: Guide to forming your LLC
 

Forming an LLC sounds complicated and expensive, but using an entity formation service guides you through the process so you know it was done right.


Some popular LLC formation services include:


IncFile - $0 plus state fees & free registered agent for 1 year!

IncAuthority - $0 plus state fees & free registered agent the first year!

ZenBusiness - $49 plus state fees & free registered agent for 1 year!

Step 4: Select your Location

A good location for a pool hall tends to be in an entertainment-focused area near restaurants and other bars.  

There are a few key things to look for in a location, which should include it being easy to find and there should be plenty of parking available. Second, a pool hall should be an inviting atmosphere, so a space that is clean, well-lit, and comfortable is important.

Related: Choosing a business location

Step 5: Apply for Business Licenses and Permits

You will need to obtain certain business licenses and permits, which will vary based on the state and town where the business is located.

If you plan to serve alcohol, you will need a liquor license for your bar.  In addition, there are general business license requirements such as a sales tax permit and an Employer Identification Number.

Related: Common business licenses, permits, and registrations by state

Step 6: Find Financing

Coming up with a good business idea and having the skills to run it are one thing, but getting the funding to start a pool hall is another.  In order to get a loan, the borrower(s) will need to have good credit and be able to invest 15-25% of their money towards the total start-up costs.

Related: Finding the money to start a business

Step 7: Open a Business Bank Account

Keeping your small business and personal finances in separate bank accounts is important to track the income and expenses of your business and identify trends.
 
Many banks offer free business checking accounts, so be sure to find a cost-effective option for your business.

Step 8: Get your Marketing Plan in Place

There are a number of ways to advertise your pool hall, and the type of advertising you choose will depend on your budget and target audience. Some effective methods of advertising a pool hall include online advertising, print advertising, word-of-mouth marketing, and hosting events.

Online advertising is a great way to reach a large number of people quickly and efficiently. You can create online ads and utilize social media that target people in your area who are interested in playing pool and other games. Print advertising is another option, and you can place ads in local newspapers and magazines. Word-of-mouth marketing is a more personal way to promote your business, and you can encourage friends, family, and customers to spread the word about your pool hall. Also, having tournaments and pool leagues will encourage consistent, repeat business for your pool hall.

No matter which type of advertising you choose, be sure to make your pool hall look attractive and inviting. People will be more likely to visit your business if they feel like it’s a fun place to be. With a little effort, you can successfully market your pool hall and bring in more customers.

Related: Low-cost ideas to market a new business

Every business is going to need a logo. Make a professional logo in no time with the free logo makers from BrandCrowd and Canva.

Step 9: Get Business Insurance

There are several types of insurance to consider when starting a pool hall. A few of these include:
– General liability insurance can help protect you from third-party claims of bodily injury and property damage.
– Professional liability insurance protects you from claims of professional errors or negligence that result in a financial loss.
– Worker’s compensation insurance covers expenses like medical bills and legal fees that a business might face if an employee were ever hurt while working.

The cost to insure a pool hall will vary depending on a number of variables. To get the most accurate idea of what to budget for insurance, request quotes from multiple providers. When comparing the quotes, consider not only the premiums but also how the plan exclusions, coverage limitations, and deductibles compare.

Related: Common types of insurance a business may need

Step 10: Hire Employees

When hiring new employees for your pool hall, it is important to consider the type of person who will be a good fit for the business. There are a few key traits that you should look for in potential candidates:

First, you want someone who is outgoing and friendly. This person will need to interact with customers on a regular basis.

Second, you want someone who is reliable and responsible. This person will be in charge of handling money and equipment, so you need to know that they will take their job seriously.

Finally, you want someone who has experience in the pool hall industry. This person will be able to help run the day-to-day operations of the business and teach new employees the ropes to free you up to focus on running the business.

Once you have identified a few potential candidates, be sure to conduct a thorough interview process. This will help you determine if the person is a good fit for the job. You can also check references and background information to get a better idea of their character.

If you are looking to hire employees for your pool hall, keep these things in mind. By finding someone who has the right personality and skills, you can ensure that your business runs smoothly and provides a great experience for customers.

Related: Hiring your first employee

Step 11: Set up an Accounting System

Setting up an accounting system for your pool hall is critical to the long-term success of your business.

Staying on top of taxes not only keeps the business out of trouble with the government but the numbers can be used to track and monitor trends and cash flow in the business and maximize profits.

Related: Setting up the accounting for your business

The thought of accounting can be intimidating for a lot of new entrepreneurs. There are a number of ways of handling bookkeeping, from DIY to hiring a bookkeeper. These include:

- Pen and paper - Low expense, but difficult to track.
- Spreadsheet - Low expense, but easy to make errors.
- Accounting software - Medium expense, but owner typically inputs expenses. Some great accounting software programs include Freshbooks or Wave Accounting.
- Hire a bookkeeper - Higher expense, though very affordable at $100-$200 per month in most cases. A dedicated bookkeeper will probably save money because, in addition to handling all of the bookkeeping (so you can focus on the business), they also provide personalized tax advice and ensure the business is in compliance.

Find bookkeepers in your local area or use a service like 800Accountant.

How much does it cost to start a pool hall?

Here are the typical costs you will face when you open a pool hall. It will take a significant amount of capital.

– Pool tables, snooker tables, and equipment $30,000 +
– Bar, lighting, space preparation $25,000 +
– Initial inventory of food and alcohol $5,000 +
– Space rental deposit $1,000 – $5,000
– Liability insurance, worker’s comp, property-casualty insurance $600 – $1,000

How much does a pool hall owner make?

Prices for pool table rentals are usually around $8-12 per hour.  If you have 10 pool tables, you could make $200,000 or more in revenue.  Liquor and food sales will add to your potential revenue.

If you live in a state that allows video gaming, a pool hall can be an excellent source of customers and tends to be a good money maker without having to do much work.

Are there grants to start a pool hall?

It’s extremely rare to find a grant to start a pool hall. If you search for business grants, you will come across a lot of scams and misinformation. Occasionally an organization will offer grants to start a business, however, be skeptical and don’t provide any sensitive personal information or pay money to get more information.

Legitimate federal grants can be found at Grants.gov and you can check on your state’s economic development office to see if they have any grants available.

What is the NAICS code for a pool hall?

The NAICS code for a pool hall is 713990, which is classified under All Other Amusement and Recreation Industries.

The NAICS code (North American Industry Classification System) is a federal system to classify different types of businesses for the collection and reporting of statistical data.

Related: What is a NAICS code and how to find yours