The Daily Gamecock

Historic pool hall Varsity Billiards reopens

Many are familiar with the iconic Varsity Billiards sign beneath Firehouse Subs on Main Street. Across the street from the Honors Residence Hall and Jones Physical Sciences Building, the building is hard to miss for those living on campus.

To some, the pool hall is considered a sort of unofficial historic landmark of the university. It was opened by Tony Patrone, a USC alumnus and former football player, in 1964. According to Columbia Closings, it was most recently closed in 2010, but has since re-opened this August.

The official grand opening of Varsity Billiards is Aug. 28 at 6 p.m. According to owner Mohammad Saadaddin, Mayor Steve Benjamin will be in attendance, as well as the original opener, Tony Patrone.

Saadaddin emphasized the historic nature of the business.

“I thought of it as a landmark, I thought somebody needed to come back and do it," Saadaddin said on his decision to reopen Varsity Billiards. "I’m not a pool player, I’ve maybe played three times all my life. But I like the location, I like the campus, and I’ve felt always that something like that needs to stay in function."

One might typically think of a pool hall as a grimy and hazy room filled with the smell of cheap booze and cigarettes. But Saadaddin decided to take a new approach and create a space for what he calls “clean fun” — a space for students and families to relax and socialize.

“We came in with a different attitude … it is catered for the students,” Saadaddin said.

The hall has 13 pool tables, as well as various electric arcade games and even a modern jukebox.

Varsity Billiards serves traditional American food including hotdogs, hamburgers, wings, cheesesteaks and ice cream, as well as healthier options such as grilled chicken and salads.  He said he hopes one day the business will offer free ice cream to USC freshmen.

Saadaddin also highlighted his desire to give back to the Columbia community. He said he plans to organize and host pool tournaments and to donate the proceeds to a local charity.

He mentioned that he enjoys hearing nostalgic stories from adults who previously frequented Varsity Billiards when they were students at the university.

“It’s amazing, the stories I’m getting ... When I saw these people it made me feel good about what I have done,” Saadaddin said.

He noted that the business will eventually dedicate the interior lateral walls of the building to USC related sports memorabilia. He also mentioned the possibility of inviting women’s basketball coach Dawn Staley to the opening reception.

“It’s so hard to get in touch with her, [she’s a] busy lady,” he said with a chuckle.

Saadaddin also said he is in the process of making the business accept CarolinaCards as payment. He hopes that Varsity Billiards will continue its legacy as a popular place for students to congregate on campus.