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A Private Pool Club Has Arrived

By Sylvia A. Martinez Apr 14 2021

New Yorkers who miss playing pool now have a new way to play. The Rock Room, which opened in late March, is a new luxury pool lounge at Rockefeller Center.

The Rock Room, in the concourse level at 30 Rockefeller Plaza, is not your typical pool hall. Sharks Pool Club is a private, contactless, highly curated lounge-style luxury space that may be reserved to play pool with family or friends or for a date night. The Rockefeller Center location marks the first in Manhattan for Sharks, which seeks to disrupt how pool is played by offering “new private mansion-style pool rooms” to people from all socioeconomic backgrounds.

“I’ve lived in New York for 22 years, it doesn’t get more dream-come-true than to be in Rock Center,” says Seattle native and Sharks CEO Jessica Resler.

Resler and her three business partners opened their first location in Williamsburg on September 15, 2020. Initially, they thought if they didn’t get any bookings, they would simply use the space to play among themselves and their friends. It turned out they needn’t have worried. The rooms quickly booked up and the Sharks team could no longer play at their own facilities, Resler says with a laugh. Sharks now has three Brooklyn locations (two in Williamsburg and one in Bushwick). Expansion plans for up to 100 locations across New York City, as well as other cities across the country, are underway.

The Rock Room, the newest Sharks location, offers an opportunity to break and bank shots, as well as lessons from an on-call Sharks coach. There is no waiting on a table, as reservations are required—and affordable. (The cost to reserve the Rock Room, located near the Top of the Rock box office, is $50 per hour.)

Resler took up pool as a way to unwind. After completing projects at the Participation Agency, an award-winning event agency she co-founded, Resler relaxed by playing at bars or pool halls. Tired of losing to her younger employees, she secretly took lessons to improve her skills. She started playing several times a week, but then Covid-19 happened, shutting down businesses where people gathered, including pool halls.

“During the pandemic, pool went away,” Resler says. “I missed it dearly.”

The Sharks CEO says she started thinking about all of the things she loved about the game (“It was a meditative outlet.”) and all of the things she didn’t love, including going into a dive, waiting—and waiting some more—for a turn at the table, only to perhaps end up playing someone who had been winning on the table for 20 games or more.

“They’re just going to whoop you, and that’s not so fun,” she says, laughing. “Also, it can be very intimidating, especially for women.”

How could playing be improved upon and done safely in the midst of a pandemic, she wondered? Used to creating experiences through her event business, Resler decided that pool could benefit from “a massive design upgrade,” but one that could and should be inclusive.

Affordability and accessibility to Sharks’ pool rooms are important to the Sharks founders. “A really big part of our mission has been democratizing access to a luxury space,” Resler says. “Who doesn’t want a beautiful room to be in and do a thing you love?” Her goal is to create beautiful spaces where everyone feels welcome, she says, estimating that she’s curated 1 million square feet of space as part of her experiential events business.

The newly opened Rock Room features color-changing LED light panels by Nanoleaf that respond to music, and illustrated signs that spell out the Sharks’ guest rules. Of course, the main attraction is an 8-foot pool table with cues and everything necessary for four people to play. The lounge space is equipped with a Bose Bluetooth speaker (for personalized music choices), a mini beverage refrigerator, a flat screen and Apple TV, and a sanitization station. All rooms are monitored 24/7 via video surveillance.

Melissa Martin, Sharks’ first customer, describes the Sharks lounges as “super modern” and says Sharks has incorporated little extra touches that make the space feel a little like home. "It feels like you’re in your own living room—if you were able to design it, have a lot of room and have really good taste,” Martin says with a laugh.

Shakir Rodriguez went from being a Sharks customer to one of its pool coaches. “When I went in, I was really thrown back at how curated it was,” Rodriguez says. “Each room has a different energy and flow. It’s tight.”

Sharks was designed for contactless check-in, online booking, and self-serve entry and exit. It has Covid-19 safety protocols that limit the number of guests and require masks. The policies are based on the honor system, and guests are asked to wash their hands before and after playing, sanitize the space between sessions, and check their temperature with thermometers available in each room. In addition, the rooms are professionally cleaned daily.

The Sharks CEO believes that people will continue to care about safety and cleanliness post-Covid. “We can’t go back to the way things were. We all know we have to wash our hands and clean up after ourselves,” Resler says. “This is a paradigm shift in behavior, so we’re very confident that our model going forward can sustain.”

Despite having no on-site staff, Sharks takes customer service seriously. Their concierge line is operated by real people, not bots, and is available to Sharks guests 21 hours a day via text messaging.

Connor Peterson, a freelance video editor, has played in every room at every Sharks location. He looks forward to playing in the Rock Room, he says, “just to say I’m at Rock Center playing pool.”

Book the Rock Room, 30 Rockefeller Plaza, via sharkspool.club or the Sharks Pool app.

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