View Full Version : Local pool halls are dying breed

06-19-2005, 06:45 PM
Inside the pool hall where he has crafted his sharp-shooter skills for the last 22 years, Don Steele practices his skills on June 14. Steele has been a professional billiards player for the past 25 years.
S.C. Spangler/Tribune-Review
web page (http://pittsburghlive.com/x/tribune-review/sports/s_345568.html)

Local pool halls are dying breed

By Les Harvath
Sunday, June 19, 2005

Growing up in Greensburg, Don Steele, 69, remembers at least six pool halls in town. Now, there is one and Steele owns it -- the Q-Ball Billiard Parlor on South Main Street.

One of a shrinking number of professional pool players in western Pennsylvania, Steele, in his prime, played in tournaments throughout the U.S. and Canada. He still competes, but not in this area and mainly in Baltimore and Washington D.C.

"I'm past my prime now," Steele said.

Steele, who graduated from Greensburg High School in 1953, has played all his life, especially in Greensburg's pool halls but he didn't take it seriously until 1977. He bought the Q-Ball in 1983.

There used to be several pool halls in Irwin, Jeannette and Manor, but today they are difficult to find.

"There is not as much interest any more," he said. "When I was young, everyone didn't have a car and people weren't able to get around as much. People couldn't get out of town as easily, so more people went to the pool rooms. Plus, pool is a hard game to learn. It seems as though there aren't as many people who want to spend the time to learn how to play, and naturally there is also much more for people to do."

Steele said the number of bar leagues are growing and the size of the tables are shrinking.

In the Q-Ball, Steele has 10 tables that cost about $4,500 and are 4 1/2 feet by 9 feet. Bar-league tables measure 3 1/2 feet by 7 feet.

"Smaller tables leave more room for error," he said. "You have to be more precise with your shots with standard-sized tables. But on the smaller tables, with less distance to cover, a player can be less exact and still be successful. While there are some excellent players in bar leagues, you don't have to be as good compared to players 30-40 years ago."

As in years past, Steele's tables are full Friday and Saturday nights.

"It's guys mostly in their 20s, and some couples who come in," he said. They represent every occupation, white- and blue-collar, not just the T-shirt crowd from the '50s and '60s.

"Pool is definitely on the down-swing and I honestly don't see it picking up, especially in pool halls," Steele said.

Steele's son Jeff, 42, is one of the top players in the area.

"I grew up playing pool with my dad," he said. "We had a table in our basement and played all the time. But in the last several years, pool has gone from the basement and pool hall to the more popular bar leagues. There may be more players because of the bar leagues, where most players play for recreation, but the better players still shoot in pool halls.

He plays at level 7 in American Pool Players Association, the highest level for males.

Delmont's Chuck Zerebnick, who plays at Level 6, learned how to shoot pool in the Q-Ball shortly after Steele assumed ownership.

"Don Steele is one of the best I've ever seen," Zerebnick said. "He showed me more than anyone else how to play the game. A lot of players would like to be able to play as well as he does, regardless of his age."

06-20-2005, 02:59 AM
Everything is cyclical. Pool halls aren't dying though they may be in decline is some areas. For every hall that has closed in my area over the last ten years another has opened. Sometimes business is great and other times it is borderline. Pool on TV is doing well and the general population is getting younger. These are both good signs.

06-20-2005, 03:42 AM
Nice article. Thanks, Nick.
I don't know if I agree, but the local pool hall has certainly changed. Gone are the hardwood floors, rack boys, and quiet atmosphere of the old style pool rooms. Now it's ear shattering music, kids who have no idea about pool room etiquete, 20 televisions on 20 different channels. I think if someone opened up a room with a dozen nice tables and no juke box, video games or any of the other crap, they might actually draw a good crowd of serious players. (They might even get a crowd who don't carry guns with them!!!)
I don't expect to see it happen, but I sure would like it.

Pied Piper
06-20-2005, 04:26 AM
Up here in Massachusetts, several of the nicer smaller pool halls have gone the way of the Dodo. Anti-smoking policies, hit hard and shut down several of the smaller venues, and also the difficulty of the smaller rooms getting liquor licenses. But I wouldn't say it was on a down swing. I actually found that the crowds are getting a little bit larger. I think pool on TV and POKER!! on TV has make a huge impact. The larger rooms are booming, if not for the jukebox and bars, but Boston Billiards, Jillians, and London Billiards here in Worcester flourish with some talent. Times have changed since the day of the smoky little hole in the wall, and we need to adapt. In my opinion pool won't make it big again until either another movie influences the masses, or we can get someone to produce pool on TV the same way Poker on TV is being done. A little more flashier, bigger money, and some focusing on rivalries (seriously look at ratings when Mosconi insulted the fat man, or when Sox play the Yanks.) But pool isn't dead, if not for a cult-like following, the game is just dormant until someone can wake the masses.

06-20-2005, 09:58 AM
Personally, I hope pool halls are not a dying breed. I am writing a business plan for opening one.

Is there an Internet discussiom forum for pool hall owners with a focus on business issues? Thanks.

06-20-2005, 11:39 AM
Personally, I hope pool halls are not a dying breed. <hr /></blockquote>

Ez, you better do more than hope, if you're writing a business plan.

Here in my town, the "local pool hall" left about twenty years ago. It was replaced by a facsimile with 40 video games. Then, it was finally replaced by what we have today as a monster room with brass rails, ferns, a restaurant, Big Screen TV, Dance floor, volleyball courts outside, etc. The snooker table rarely gets used. I doubt if anyone knows it's there, except the old-timers who play golf all day on it. And if you played 3-cushion billiards, you drew a slew of onlookers, mouth agape, wondering what the @#$% you're doing on a table with no pockets.

Face it, life as we knew it is gone. For better, for worse.

06-20-2005, 02:24 PM
Your right that poolís popularity is cyclical. One of my dadís older friends ran the local pool hall in Fairmont, NC (very small town) from the 50ís to the 70ís. He would close his pool hall when the popularity of pool decreased, moving the tables into storage. Then, when there was resurgence in the popularity of pool he would open a pool hall and move the tables in. Therefore, he never would lose money in the slow years.

Fred Floyd

06-20-2005, 02:59 PM
i am in sumter sc now and there are no pool halls..there are lots of shooters here and id like to open one, but like most of America im living payday to payday..I know that pool halls do good because i eas stationed in Jacksonville NC and someone opened one and it stayed packed..It did have juke box, but it wasnt loud, it had a dart area and lots of tables and it always had a good crowd..ya most customers would just hang out and knock the balls around, but us players who shoot alot had a nice place to meet up and play..we would just use the by the hour tables to keep the riff raff away..Man How I Wish We Had a Pool Hall Here...good luck with project i think it will do well anywhere. /ccboard/images/graemlins/cool.gif

06-20-2005, 04:27 PM
I feel your pain. Where I am from in WI within 50 mile radious, there is only two pool halls, well maybe a third I have heard of it but never been. Some might remember my thread about "I have a dream...." well there was a small local hall just two blocks from the house I bought. They had four 9'ers and four bar boxes. The bar boxes had free pool from 12:00-6:00 every day. They tore it down a month and a half before I close on the house. I was bummed.... Oh well guess I have my own one table pool hall in my house... you'er all invited especially you Nine Ball Girl...! "I have a dream......." (http://www.billiardsdigest.com/ccboard/showflat.php?Cat=&amp;Board=ccb&amp;Number=197708&amp;Forum=cc b&amp;Words=I%20have%20a%20dream&amp;Match=Entire%20Phrase &amp;Searchpage=0&amp;Limit=25&amp;Old=allposts&amp;Main=197560&amp;Se arch=true#Post197708)