Mike Bates, a former star baseball player at Apollo High School and Phoenix College, didn’t want his love for sports to wane. He joined an adult softball team and, naturally, after each game they headed to sports bars to reminisce.
Unexpectedly, he bought a sports bar, Six Shooters, in 2008 and rebranded it Bull Shooters Billiards & Sports Bar. However, the battle to obtain a liquor license turned into a fight to save the neighborhood.
In its last three months, Six Shooters had 23 calls for police service before Bates took it over, he said. Last year, Bull Shooters didn’t require police to visit once.
“We had to persuade the neighborhood, the police department, everybody, because they all voted against the opening. Then they gave me six months to prove I was worth it,” said Bates, a Glendale resident, in the dartboard room of his bar.
Bates proved the 29,000-square-foot Bull Shooters would be family friendly, an asset to the community and a stellar business partner, and he was granted a liquor license. He created a business-homeowner alliance to help upgrade the neighborhood.
“It’s about rejuvenating this area,” he said. “They were ready to close this shopping center and tear it down if we didn’t take this space.
“The only big thing here when we came in was Laser Quest. They had an agreement or whatever that said if it wasn’t 50% occupied, they could get out of there.”
During the pandemic, Bates grabbed his staff and visited a different restaurant regularly to boost sales.
Bates made many upgrades, including adding the world’s best pool tables — the Diamond tables. The restaurant is owned and operated by Bates and his family. His wife, Julie, cooks homemade food, and his daughter, Jamie, is a manager.
The room boasts 50-plus large-screen plasma TVs, 45 billiards tables, 20 dartboards, shuffleboard, foosball, 30 draft beers including craft, off-track horses, homemade food, and karaoke after 9 p.m.
“It’s like Walmart or Disneyland for adults,” Bates said with a laugh. “You can buy lottery tickets and scratchers here. We have karaoke at night, dart leagues at night. My wife makes the best homemade green chili.”
“This isn’t just bar food,” said Bates, who was drafted four times by the MLB.
Bull Shooters has been voted the best billiards or pool hall in Arizona five times and the best in America by Pool and Billiards Magazine. Additionally, it has been voted the Best Dart Hall in America.
It’s a logical award for Bates, who switched his attention from baseball to softball to darts. He soon found success in that, too, being named to the National Dart Hall of Fame in 2010 and the American Art Hall of Fame in 2012.
Through dart competitions, he’s raised $250,000 for charities, including $11,000 for the Granite Mountain Hotshots.
“We have our differences and all that,” he said about dart players. “But when it’s something like that, we all come together and support each other. Every year, we do the St. Mary’s Food Bank benefit. It’s funny because they left one of the boxes behind. It’s by our front door. I looked at it yesterday and it’s full again. That says a lot for our guests.”