It’s been months since anyone shot pool at Status Q Billiards. It’s been a Bay Ridge fixture for three decades, but like other businesses, it’s closed because of the coronavirus.
“We need to open,” says Status Q owner Brian Thomas. “The billiard industry is very small in New York City. And a lot of us are not going to make it, us in particular. We’re going on 30 years in business. We don’t know if we’re going to get to the end of September.“
The 3,000 square-foot hall can accommodate 58 people, but without customers, owner Brian Thomas says he hasn’t been able to pay the rent. The problem is pool halls have been excluded from the states re-opening plans. Thomas says his only lifeline came with outdoor dining was permitted and he started serving drinks and bar food outside.
“With our little outdoor dining setup, we could pay a bill or two. We can pay the electric, we can pay insurance. Paying the rent is a real challenge right now,” says Thomas.
At Gotham City Billiard in Gravesend, owner Kevin Buckley invested $8,000 on a new air filtration system and other safety measures. He figures it will take years to cover the cost once he’s allowed to reopen.
“There’s no way,” says Buckley. “When I come back at 50%, I’m not making money. I’m lucky if I’m still paying all my expenses and the salaries of the people.”
Buckley says he’s frustrated the state gave the green light to indoor businesses like bowling alleys but not pool halls. He says there’s also no guidance for when pool halls can reopen.
“In a gym, there’s a lot more exercising, a lot more heavy breathing. In a pool hall, walking around the table is your only exercise. There’s no strenuous activity of any kind. Playing pool is a very calm sport,” says Buckley.
Thomas at Status Q points out the restrictions on pool halls are especially baffling because pool is a distance sport.
“A pool table is 9’ x 4’, and they’re spaced five feet apart. That creates a lot of distance”, says Thomas.
In response, the state says with hot spots popping up across the country, they are continuing to monitor how and when higher-risk activities like billiards can safely reopen.
Pool halls have already been under stress in the city, in part because of high rents. Only two dozen or so or left in New York. Hall of Fame Billiards in Bay Ridge closed before the pandemic.
“This is an industry that’s kind of fading away,” says Thomas. “I’m afraid that after COVID, it’s going to fade away even worse.”
It’s an industry that’s finding itself behind the 8-ball.