Some bars can mount a few large LCD, LED, OLED and plasma televisions, purchase sports packages, pledge loyalty to one or more college and professional teams, and call themselves a sports bar. There are, however, some staples beyond big TVs, sports memorabilia, and team logos that communicate the theme of sports bar, tap into the competitive nature of sports fans of all types, and give guests the opportunity to compete, socialize and engage.
To be clear, there’s nothing wrong with keeping it simple. But giving your guests an excuse to meet and mingle is always an excellent idea. Ideally (particularly on weekends), you want your guests to have a reason to arrive early, stay for the game(s) you’re hosting, and remain at your bar afterward.
Beyond food, beer, cocktail and spirit specials, happy hour promotions, and reverse happy hours, these standards of the sports bar scene will keep guests in your bar. They’re also just plain fun.
Traditional & Electronic Darts
We can’t really discuss pub games without mentioning darts. Traditional boards don’t take up too much space in and of themselves, although you’ll want to place your dartboard(s) some place out of the way of foot traffic. You know, to avoid that whole a-person-walked-to-the-restroom-and-caught-a-dart-with-their-neck situation. To be fair, electronic dartboards also don’t take up much space. Again, you’ll want to locate them in a safe spot. A traditional board can be had for less than $25, while cabinet-style boards will run you anywhere from about $30 to around $250. Expect to pay $300 or more for electronic dartboards like those made by Arachnid. A dozen plastic darts in various colors will run you around $10, and steel-tipped darts go for anywhere from $20 to a few hundred dollars.
Dipole darts can either be a free-standing or wall-mounted magnetic dart game that makes use of bottle caps. Your guests play by tossing bottle caps (conveniently provided by bottled beers, mixers and ready-to-drink cocktails) at a 3-dimensional magnetic target. For $107.75 you get the Dipole Games magnet, dipole backdrop, base stand, magnet holder, magnet extender and connector.
If you have the room, an air hockey table placed in the right location usually attracts plenty of attention. There are several styles of air hockey table, including 2-player, 4-player, logo-branded, neon-lit, black-lit, those with hockey sound effects, and those made with scuff-proof materials. They can be anywhere from 5 feet to 7 feet in length, so you’ll need to take that into account. Expect to pay anywhere from a few hundred dollars to few thousand. For example, a 7-inch Brunswick air hockey table will run you about $700.
Just like there are many styles of air hockey table, there are several foosball tables on the market. These can be customized in lots of ways, including tables that match the colors of your favorite team. Professional versions cost around $600 and rise in price from there, while simpler tables range from $150 to approximately $400.
Particularly popular among college students of legal drinking age, beer pong can provide you with the opportunity to host tournaments when there isn’t a game being televised. Of course, even if there’s a game on TV you can host beer pong tournaments. Tables can be as simple or complex as you want, starting at around $50 and running a few hundred dollars depending on construction, branding, and features such as lighting and waterfalls ball washers.
Not only are pool tables absolute staples of the sports bar, they’re a standard for multiple types of bars. However, they’re large and expensive. You should expect to pay close to $3,000 for a coin-operated pool table. Tables with upgraded construction including cloth, accents, coin and bill options can drive the price up several thousand dollars. Similar to pool tables, cues, balls, bridges and racks can be had in kits that cost under $100 and rise sharply in price.
This is another sports bar game that requires proper placement to not negatively impact foot traffic or square footage that generates money. Shuffleboards can range in length from 9 feet to the standard 14 feet. Even better, they can be branded with NCAA and other team logos (or your bar’s logo). A basic 9-foot shuffleboard will range from $500 to under $2,000, but operators should plan on spending upwards of $5,000 for long-lasting, high-quality, branded, 14-foot examples made with high-grade wood, epoxied playing surfaces, and levelers in the legs. Eight pucks will set you back $50 or more. Shuffleboard wax ranges from $5 to under $100 in price.
Cornhole aka Tailgate Toss
Also known as tailgate toss, the sky is the limit when it comes to cornhole setups. Brand them with logos and colors, laminate the playing surfaces, add collapsible legs and lighting… If you know someone good with wood you can probably have a couple of cornhole boards for just the price of materials and time. Regulation boards are 2 feet by 4 feet. An entire set of boards and beanbags can be had for a couple of twenties but if you get really crazy they can cost a couple hundred bucks.
If you’re operating a barcade or plan to open one in the future, you already know the value of arcade games. Highly coveted cocktail table video games can cost $1,500 or more, while upright cabinet-style games can cost a few hundred bucks for less popular or poor quality examples and rocket past $3,000 for brand-new or like-new cabinets. Golden Tee, one of the most sought-after bar arcade games, costs roughly $2,500 when refurbished and around $5,000 when new. Expect to pay $2,500 for punching bag games, $3,500 for basketball games, and $5,000 for a traditional Skee-Ball machine, assuming each are brand-new.