It’s no secret that San Francisco tech loves ping pong. Table tennis has become a must-have for programmers stepping away from their computers to blow off steam. Indeed, it’s most startups first luxury purchase. According to a recent article in The Wall Street Journal, a dip in table tennis sales is also an indicator of when cash flow is low. It’s an interesting move for SPiN to open now as tech funding is becoming harder to come by.
Today in San Francisco, SPiN ping pong club opens its doors to their fifth location (it would’ve been the sixth if the chain hadn’t shut down in Dubai due to a much milder drinking scene). With 19 STIGA tables, two bars, a VIP lounge and an outdoor patio, SPiN is a competitive force by day and bougie club by night. SPiN opens at 11 AM and encourages a family friendly environment during the day before the drinking crowd rolls in. Like other SF bars, SPiN is adults-only in the evening and closes at 2 AM. SPiN’s menu features fancy cocktails and gourmet finger foods customized for the location by local chef Mike Betancourt.
“We started in the most innocent, unassuming way,” says SPiN co-founder Jonathan Bricklin. “We bought a ping pong table for our loft in New York City. It very slowly turned into a weekly party. It was dorky ping pong players and then we got a beer sponsor, and a vodka sponsor, and then we had the coolest party in lower Manhattan. And a lot of famous authors, musicians, and crazy mixtures of celebrities would somehow show up at our parties. It created this very memorable and fun vibe and it showcased ping pong in this really fun way that really hadn’t been done at the time. So one thing lead to the next. We started meeting with investors and Susan Sarandon came to one of the events and with her enthusiasm it really all came to life.”
Centrally located in the heart of SOMA, SPiN SF is next door to Moscone and the new MOMA. SPiN quite literally sits between art and tech. The space is littered with art by California-based artists, including David Flores and Shepard Fairey, widely known for his Obama “Hope” campaign poster.
Price-wise, SPiN is on par with, if not slightly cheaper than, Mission Bowling Club, the original hipster activity-based bar and lounge in San Francisco. With the popularity of Urban Putt, Brewcade and now SPiN, there is a proven market for businesses in SF that combine fun with family activities and gourmet bar food and booze.
“Anyone can play. It doesn’t discriminate on height or physical size. It’s a very democratic sport,” says Bricklin. “It’s much more engaging than billiards or bowling, which are very successful social games. Ping pong is its own thing. It’s a silly game for kids but also an Olympic sport.”
Also notable is the company’s commitment to including the local community. Thanks in large part to their co-founder, actress and activist Susan Sarandon, SPiN has partnered with the Glide Foundation to offer ping pong programs for local underserved youth. The San Francisco location is also carbon neutral, offsetting emissions into local ecological programs.
Personally, SPiN was a bit too much of a scene. Maybe I’ve lived in SF for too long or I’m not quite cool enough to get it. But the atmosphere felt a bit over the top to me. That said, I can see how its location, food and classy cocktails offer the perfect mix of socialization and stress-relief for the many, many tech employees working nearby.