View Full Version : Pool Hall 101 -Episode 2-Attack of the Neighbors

08-04-2002, 10:17 PM
Ok, you have the money firmly in place, assurances from city council that you can open a pool room in theer sanctuary, a budget(you do have a budget, don't you), and a firm grasp of what size of pool room you are going to open. All of this should be addressed in your business plan you took to the bank, you might even have a good idea of where you are going to open up. I didn't.

I'd only been living in the city for less than a year and was spending most my time at my 9 - 5 job. I had a good idea of what the good parts and bad parts of the city were, but I needed a better idea.

If you are going to make a mistake, this is the one place you don't want to make a mistake. I almost did and almost paid dearly for it.

Location, location, location - I wanted a middle class neighborhood. If you open in a rough area, you will get a rough crowd, better class people will be scared of coming to your room. On the flip side if you open up in a high class neighbourhood you will be overun with yuppies. It all depends on what type of room you plan on opening. What type of clientele do you want? I wanted pool players, plain and simple. But I didn't want them to be scared of leaving their cars parked outside at night. What I ended up doing was spending countless hours driving around at night. If I was scared of getting out of my car, I crossed that area of the map. I also made friend with a city policewoman. She was able to tell me crime rates by area, and a plethora of other helpfull tips. I eventually found the area I wanted, time to find the exact location.

Once you have a general idea of where you want to open up, now its time to find the highest traffic area that you can get a building in. What I did was found the address of every 7-11 in the general area. 7-11's are famous for being in the busiest traffic sectors of the city. I decided on a specific area. The area was about a 20 block length right along a main route. I found a building(more on this later) and was negotiating a lease. I went around the residental area(immediately behind the commercial section of the main route) that I would be doing business in and talked with several residence. Most were very supportive. Then a major SNAFU. We will call her Ms. Brown.

Ms. Brown - Ms. Brown was about 65 years old, widowed, and what some would call a little nosy. It seems that she had previously lived across the street from a dance club and had major problems with vandals and noise, she was not going to let that happen again. Ms. Brown could be described as a bit of a crusader. When word of a pool hall with a liquor lisence sprung up, she sprung into action. Before long a petition had circulated and a meeting was called. At the meeting I was made out to be the bad guy who's evil little pool room was going to infect their neighbourhood. Never mind the 500 other commercial building also on the street. By the end of the meeting, they wanted reports on noise levels, traffic and a million other things. I went to see my lawyer, he assured me that I could open up there, it would just take a little more time. But, my patience was short and I really didn't want to do business in a community that didn't want me there. I said screw it, and started over.

Once again I went and found a new area, got the support of the local district(we called a meeting first so that I could explain what I wanted to do). In retrospect it was the best thing that ever happened. The first location was on the very outskirts of the city, the new location was in the very center of the city. Many people have since told me they wouldn't have driven 30 minutes across the city, but were willing to drive 15 minutes to the center. By moving to the center, I possibly opened my business to many more people.

In Episode 3 I will talk about finding the perfect building, it's harder than it sounds.

08-05-2002, 12:11 AM
Gumpy, all of this sounds very familiar. We had a Mr & Mrs Brown, all their relatives and friends at a neighborhood meeting. Yes they can sling a lot of mud. But after what they had been through I don't blame them. Promises of making everything better won't fly. As you mentioned time to move along. I've never stayed where I don't feel welcome.

08-05-2002, 03:03 AM
Rod, you make a very valid point that I had never really thought about much. I'm certain that if I had to live next door to a night club that moved in after me, and the vandals and drunks insued, I would be very concerned in the future about not letting it happen again. All in all, I am maybe a little harsh in my assesment of the situation. At the time though, I was just a little bit steamed:). Nobody likes to stand in front of a crowd of people while they call you every name in the book. Especially when my whole life savings were on the line. At the time, I really did believe that it was going to ruin me. Looking back now, the only real regret I have is not calming the situation down before it turned in to the mob frenzy that it did. But it worked out in the long run, and it's a mistake I didn't, and won't let happen again, I HOPE:).

08-05-2002, 04:59 AM
Thanks for taking the time to present this first hand account of the pitfalls of opening a poolhall here on this pool community board, it is very interesting and informative. I read an article years ago about how municipalities still have ordinances specifically written in the early 1900's to restrict the operation of poolhalls and these can be dusted off and used against a new operation...I look forward to your continuing story. Thanks again.

08-05-2002, 01:58 PM
I had a church group try to shut me down one time. They actually would picket in front of the poolroom. After a few spots on the nightly news, business picked up so much, I told them table time was on the house if they wanted to come in and play. We would serve them free soda and ice water to them as they picketed. What a bunch of idiots, they just have nothing better to do.

08-05-2002, 02:21 PM
As a Christian and a Pool Player I would bet that most of the pool room patrons were less hypocritical than the church people....(sorry Mom)

08-05-2002, 03:44 PM
There is a little more to the story. This poolroom opened in 1958. I bought it in 1976. The place was going broke and the owner wanted to sell at any price but had no buyers. He was going to just close and sell the equipment when I came along. I asked him why he did not sell beer and he told me he was too close to the church across the street. You had to be 1000 feet from a church or school. I was still interested even though the place was not making money. I bought it for the value of the equipment and took over a lease with 7 years left on it. I did not really care about making money, I just wanted to have a place to go, and if it broke even and provided a few jobs I would be happy. One day about 3 months after I took the place over a guy comes in from the city about a problem with my license. He wanted to check that I had the proper licenses for the pinball machines. After checking he sat down and had a soda. He asked me why I did not sell beer? I told him about the church and that the other owner had been turned down. He told me there was no problem with the church. I wanted to hear more. He said that checking licenses was not really his job, he was just getting in a few extra hours. He was really a zoning officer. He told me who ever turned down the license was wrong. He said the law reads that the measurement must be made by legal pedestrian right of way not as the crow flies. He said to measure from my front door to the church he would have to go down to the light across and up the other side of the street. Almost a 1/4 of a mile. I had a lawyer the next day and in no time my beverage license was no its way. When the church got wind of a bar opening right in front of their door they flipped out. That is where the church came into the picture. Then they met me. I had long hair a long beard and looked like a hells angel. I drove a green and gold Firebird Formula you could hear a block away. They thought I was the devil or something. That chance meeting with that officer turned my nothing investment into hundreds of thousands of dollars over the next eight years. and I sold the place for many times what I had originally paid. I lot of people thought I knew the truth before I bought the place, including the old owner who tried to sue me. I don't know what for? I had no idea, I doubt I would have even looked into it. Funny how life is.

08-05-2002, 04:12 PM
That is interesting about the distance, and it does make sense. I'm sure it varies a little in different cities or countys but 1000 ft sounds standard.

08-05-2002, 04:19 PM
Love it Q-Guy ...good for you.../ccboard/images/icons/smile.gif

08-06-2002, 08:04 AM
That's great that you came across that guy. I guess it pays to double check the licensing situation. I know a guy who had the opposite happen to him. He tried to open a pool room around the corner from Chelsea Billiards. It was literally about 100 yards away on 6th Ave. We used to walk by and watch the construction. According to his story, he hired a team of lawyers to look into the licensing, got the OK to go ahead and invested a million in construction. The place was absolutely gorgeous, it was going to have 50 Gold Crowns, it had a Southwest design with Indian motifs and plush carpeting everywhere, spiral staircase leading to a balcony where you can sit and watch matches. We were all sure it was going to put Chelsea out of business. He had signed a 10 year lease, and just as he was getting ready to open, he said he was told that his business was in the beginning of the fashion district and he would not be allowed to obtain a license. Somebody goofed, big-time, and it cost him a million. The place never opened and he was never seen again.


08-06-2002, 09:07 AM

08-06-2002, 10:26 AM
It is interesting you say he had lawyers. My experiences has been most people don't want to pay lawyers. I love lawyers. Zoning laws can be tricky and can be open to interruption

08-06-2002, 10:50 AM
Well, that's what he said. Who knows if that's what he really did, though.


08-06-2002, 11:11 AM
<blockquote><font class="small">Quote: Q-guy:</font><hr> It is interesting you say he had lawyers. My experiences has been most people don't want to pay lawyers. I love lawyers. Zoning laws can be tricky and can be open to interruption <hr></blockquote>

i dont love lawyers but i love my brother who happens to be a lawyer &lt;G&gt;


08-06-2002, 02:31 PM
<blockquote><font class="small">Quote: Q-guy:</font><hr> It is interesting you say he had lawyers. My experiences has been most people don't want to pay lawyers. I love lawyers. Zoning laws can be tricky and can be open to interruption <hr></blockquote>

Agree completely. In my not so humble opinion, anyone who tries to open ANY kind of business without help from a lawyer is just asking for trouble. Regarding zonig laws, what took me and a lawyer 7 months would have taken me by myself at least twice as long. Their not cheap, but a good honest lawyer is worth his/her weight in gold.

08-06-2002, 08:45 PM
And they look so cute when they're working! /ccboard/images/icons/blush.gif