When you think of beer pong, some images and phrases probably come to mind: frat parties, sticky floors and next-day hangovers among them.
But luxury? High design?
If Joseph Mollo, a 22-year-old recent DePaul University grad, has anything to say about it, that could be the new face of beer pong. Mollo, an entrepreneurship major at DePaul, designed a poplar-and-cast-iron beer pong table with a sleek curved surface and LED lights to highlight those red Solo cups.
"If I tell people I make an $800 beer pong table and I don't have a picture, they walk away laughing," Mollo said. But "once they see it, they change their minds."
Mollo now runs a company—along with partner and fellow DePaul graduate Daniel Manriquez—called Chippewa Five, which is devoted to selling the beer pong tables online. Count among the converts companies like Zynga games (which makes "Words With Friends") and Facebook, who along with two-dozen-plus others, have purchased the table.Pazzo's Cucina Italiana in the Loop has also bought one of the high-design tables, Mollo said.
Beer pong is typically played with two teams, beer in plastic cups, a ping-pong ball and a table. Players try to toss ping-pong balls into their opponents' cups of beer, forcing them to drink the contents of the cup. It's not exactly chess, but it's gained a passionate, devoted following and inspired beer pongs leagues and tournaments. There's even a World Series of Beer Pong in Las Vegas.
"Beer pong is growing in popularity. You see it on TV all the time," said Mollo, who lives in Burr Ridge. "It's growing, and I think this is a table it's going to grow with."
After years spent in college enjoying beer pong, Mollo—who comes from a family in the furniture industry—decided he wanted to elevate the game. He designed a table about a year ago that's visually simple but technically difficult to make, with curved wood and inlaid lighting. The dip in the middle of the table allows a complicated, skeeball-like shot in which the player rolls the ball along the dip so that it pops up into the cup.
"The design isn't purely aesthetic, it has function," he said. "It's a highly skilled shot. For the aficionado, someone who is really into beer pong, they are going to want this table."
Right now the table is available only on the company's Facebook page and etsy.com, and Mollo is looking to get more tables into restaurants, bars and grills, and other spots in Chicago where people play beer pong.
He said he's hoping Chippewa Five, and the table he's designed, will change people's perceptions of beer pong, taking it out of dank basements and into elegant bars and well-designed homes.
"It's not your dining room table with a chandelier hanging in the middle of it," he said. "It draws people to it. Even if you don't know what beer pong is, you're going to want to find out."
Mollo said he has heard some criticism that beer pong promotes binge-drinking, but said the new breed of player might not even put beer in their cup. They'll have a delicious microbrew on the side to sip and put water in the cups on the table.
"If you're playing to get drunk, that's what you can do," he said, but "it's not about chugging all 10 cups of beer. It's about winning."
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