Projecting in Sports Bars and Restaurants

Projectors in Bars and Restaurants

Big screens bring big excitement to your local sports bars and restaurants. 10 years ago projectors were the only game in town for giant images. Old ‘3-gun’ CRT 500 pound monstrosities sat in the middle of the sticky floor, surrounded by peanut shells and French fries. They were big, in the way, and usually the colors were out of sync. But you had to love them, because big games look better bigger. Right?

Today, front projectors have grown up. The giant chassis have been replaced by sleek, 10 pound, barely noticeable, perfectly synced high definition video. They also cost less, are easier to install, and are available in native HD widescreen format. So, we thought we’d offer up some advice to those buyers looking for a new projector in the restaurant and bar business. Here are a few tips from us to you.


Like Projector People customers Dave and Busters, a sports bar or restaurant will usually have controlled lighting in the primary big screen viewing areas. If you are designing your own entertainment space, that’s a good tip for you. Make sure you have controlled lighting where your displays will be located. You want controlled lighting for several reasons. For one, it will save you money and space. Super bright projectors cost a little more, and are a little bigger (because they need more room for cool air to circulate). So, here’s a guide for brightness (measured in lumens) in controlled lighting situations.

Projector Brightness Chart for Bar and Restaurant Settings
Screen Size (diagonal) Lumens Suggested
60-80 inches 1000-2000
80-120 inches 2000-3500
120 inches plus 3500 or more lumens

Of course controlled lighting is also important for setting ambiance as well. For instance, when the Minnesota Vikings win the SuperBowl (and they will win the SuperBowl) there will be grown men crying. Enough said.

Quick Tip: If your bar or restaurant turns into a nightclub in the evenings, and you want to use your projector for some cool flashy imagery, be sure that your disco lighting doesn’t wash out the screen. Indirect light shouldn’t wash out the picture entirely, but direct light may.


There aren’t a whole lot of options for a true big screen video projector. The big decision here is whether to choose a lower cost standard 4:3 resolution projector, or to go with the trend and select a native widescreen HD projector. Here’s a good, better, best list for resolutions. Short and sweet.

Good, Better, Best, Killer Resolution and Projector Recomendations
  Resolution Video Projector Suggestion
Good XGA (1024×768) Standard NTSC (4:3) Casio XJ-S31
Better WXGA-H (1280×720) HD (720p native) Optoma HD71
Best HD (1920×1080) HD (1080p native) Optoma HD80
Killer HD (1920×1080) HD (1080p native) Panasonic PT-DW10000U


In some cases a new projector may be replacing older displays, or it may be that the projector will serve multiple purposes and be placed in varying locations. If that’s the situation for you, then you will require a projector designed for flexibility.

Features for Flexibility:

  • Short throw distance (allows for bigger images when projector is close to the screen)
  • Zoom lens (make your image larger or smaller without physically moving the projector)
  • Lens shift (move your image from side to side or up and down without moving projector)

The Casio XJ-S31 is a great example of a flexible projector. It has a 2x zoom lens, short throw distance, and is competitively priced.

Replacement Lamps

Projectors in Bars and Restaurants

We sell a lot of replacement lamps to our sports bar clients because the projectors are used as much as 12 hours a day (maybe more). That means the 2000-4000 expected lamp life can get ‘used up’ in a few months. Replacements lamps usually cost between $250 – $400. Check out our Tips to Extended Lamp Life for some tips on keeping the lamp going as long as possible.

Quick Tip: Ever wonder what the pros and cons of using a projector versus a Flat Panel TV? Here’s a quick comparison of the technologies.

Smoky Rooms

If your establishment allows smokers to light up indoors, you might want to an extra look at stipulations in the manufacturer warranty. Some LCD projectors may not honor a warranty in a smoky environment because smoke can do damage to the optic system. DLP projectors have ‘sealed’ optics, and are more likely to be unharmed by smoke. Ask a Projector Expert for warranty details before you purchase.

So whether you are a sports bar owner, or a guy who wants to create the sports bar environment in his home, we hope these tips were helpful. As always, if you have more questions, feel free to contact a Projector Expert.

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