If you want to play pool in the UK, there’s nowhere quite like The Elbow Room, a unique hybrid of bar, club, and pool hall. It’s something of a miracle it ever happened. Justin Carter had the idea in the course of a lost weekend in LA, which involved a few frames with Kiefer Sutherland (a good potter but hopeless on safety). Having no experience of the bar business he came back to London and swiftly made contact with manager Patrick Chessells, designer Paul Daly and music producer Arthur Baker. Unfortunately none of them had any experience of running bars either, but they somehow managed to find a site in Westbourne Grove and the first Elbow Room opened in 1995.
Londoners finally had an alternative to the rickety English pool table in a dingy corner of their local pub, with the ritual humiliation implicit in trying to whip the resident meathead off a ‘winner stays on’ table. The Elbow Room was a nice place, elegantly designed with seven pool tables, boasting good food, music, and a booking system which meant you could play pool with your mates without getting booted off. The idea was good enough to disguise the lack of experience and it proved a big hit, winning Bar of the Year at the London Restaurant Awards in 1996.
Keen to do another, bigger and better, they somehow ended up in Leeds where the second Elbow Room opened in 1998. This time it was a hybrid nightclub/pool hall, with seventeen tables and a 600 capacity. It was a big risk, but it rocked, setting things up for the opening of a third site in Islington in 2000, followed by Swiss Cottage in 2001 (now sadly defunct), Bristol in 2001 and Shoreditch in 2002. Each one is deliberately different, with distinct design elements built around the same fundamental theme of putting top quality American pool tables into a comfortable bar environment.
Westbourne Grove: Bar of the Year, London Restaurant Awards 1996
Leeds: Best Use of Technology, Theme Awards 2000
Islington: Shortlist, Best Bar, Time Out Eating and Drinking Awards 2001
Best Late Licenced Venue, Flavour Awards 2001
Bristol: Best Bar, BEDA awards 2002
Group: Best Branded Concept, Theme Awards 2001