Sports bars and restaurant venues are constantly innovating to offer patrons new ways of enjoying a night on the town. For some establishments, pickleball has become a great addition to the usual dining and entertainment experience.
In January 2022, Houston became one of the latest cities to incorporate pickleball into the sports bar space when Bumpy Pickle opened its doors. It immediately established itself as the area’s only sports bar and recreational facility for sand volleyball and pickleball.
Located in Houston’s Second Ward near Eastwood Park, the outside area has nine well-lit pickleball courts and five regulation-size sand volleyball courts.
Inside, the architectural design features industrial furniture and vine-covered ceilings. Customers can satisfy their palates with wings, chicken nachos, beer-battered fried pickles, and a variety of other food choices. Craft beers and cocktails are served by an award-winning mixologist, with 20 big-screen TVs available for those who want to watch their favorite team.
Bumpy Pickle, which gets its name from a combination of the terms ‘bump’ in volleyball and ‘pickle’ in pickleball, is a project of Good Times LLC. The company first opened Sports Creek in Eado in 2017, a bar offering soccer and volleyball courts with seasonal league play.
The bar bills itself as a place where people of all ages can eat, drink and play in a lively environment, so kids and pets are welcome.
“Sometimes you have kids and grandparents that can’t go to a lot of places. We’re trying to cater to every single demographic and keep them entertained.Roberto Escalera, CEO of Good Times LLC
The planning stages of the project began in 2018. Good Times had lined up investors with several million dollars raised when the coronavirus pandemic hit.
“That kind of stalled us,” Escalera recalled. “We lost a lot of people that wanted to invest. It made us rethink everything, give back the money to investors. But then we just said, ‘let’s keep going’.”
When Bumpy Pickle finally opened, there wasn’t a flashy marketing campaign. Most of the traffic came from word of mouth and Instagram posts. The cold weather affected pickleball and sand volleyball activities.
Once spring arrived, patrons began showing up on a regular basis. Escalera estimates anywhere from 2,000 to 3,000 people per week come through the doors, many of them young professionals. While the bar currently serves food, the plan is to add a full restaurant soon.
“We’re trying to double or triple (our capacity) once we open the restaurant,” Escalera explained. “That’s when the marketing will come and we’ll try to bring more people in.”
Players can book in advance or walk in if a court is available. Pickleball clinics are offered for beginner, intermediate and open play. Participants learn how to improve their shots, where and when to be on the court, doubles strategy and drills. League play is also available.
Paddles are available to rent, and customers can buy balls if they wish. A retail shop is coming soon where tennis shoes, towels, and other gear can be purchased.
Since Bumpy Pickle is close to downtown, it’s a convenient attraction for parties and corporate events, particularly when the restaurant opens. A stage is set up on weekends where local musicians perform.
While the bar is still in its infancy, Escalera and his company are in talks with developers in hopes of opening other locations around Houston.
“We can’t say where yet,” he said. “We’re planning to open the restaurant. Then two or three months in, that’s when we’re going to start making (plans) around Houston.”
That would be welcome news for pickleball enthusiasts in the most populated city in Texas. Check out the Bumpy Pickle’s website for more information!
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