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Former downtown Lawrence piano bar converted into pool hall, tavern


There has been a trade in downtown Lawrence: Barry Manilow for Tom Cruise. (Sure, now my wife starts paying attention to me.)

It's nothing like that, however. Instead, we're talking about a change in formats for the downtown nightclub at 729 New Hampshire Street. Out is The Barrel House, the piano bar concept that featured renditions of Barry Manilow, Neil Diamond, Elton John and other kings of the ivory. In is Leroy's Tavern, which is seeking to restore the old tradition of a downtown pool hall. At some point that means men of a certain age will do their best Tom Cruise impersonation in the pool hall classic "The Color of Money." (That involves acting out a famous scene where he twirls a pool cue like a samurai sword. Or, I suppose you could just jump up and down on a couch and babble about Katie Holmes.)

I don't know if there are any couches at LeRoy's Tavern, but manager Ryan Chapman told me the bar has installed 10 new coin-operated Valley pool tables, four dart boards, a handful of arcade games and two foosball tables.

"I think the owners are doing this because there is really nothing like this to do downtown," Chapman said. "Pretty much everywhere downtown is just about the drinking. There are a few places that have one or two pool tables, but they really are a bar with pool tables. This is meant to be a pool hall/gaming hall with a bar."

But make no mistake, a bar is a big part of LeRoy's too. Chapman said the bar has 10 draft beers on tap, 16 different bottled variety of beers and fully-stocked liquor assortment.

At the moment, the establishment — which opened last week — doesn't serve food. But Chapman said there are discussions with downtown restaurants that want to make regular deliveries to the bar. That would involve a unique concept of setting up an iPad in the bar that would be linked into a nearby sandwich shop.

In case you are wondering, the location at 729 New Hampshire Street is exempt from the city requirement that new drinking establishments downtown make a majority of their revenue from food sales. The location is part of a handful of properties that received an waiver from that regulation because they were bars at the time the regulations were approved a couple of decades ago.

Chapman said he hopes to eventually operate a weeknight pool league out of the facility, and maybe run an occasional Sunday afternoon tournament. But he said the establishment will be geared for novices too, and he expects a good part of the facility's business will be from people just looking for a little bit different atmosphere than what exists at most places downtown.

That atmosphere won't include any pianos. Chapman said the ownership group — which includes a couple of the guys who own the downtown club Tonic — ripped out the piano stages and opened up the area.

It will be interesting to see if the piano bar concept tries to make a comeback elsewhere in Lawrence. I've had some people say the concept works better in a larger town or a more tourist-oriented place, but who knows? I do know that many bar owners have told me over the years that a key to making money is developing a crowd of "regulars" that you can count on in good times and bad. I'm trying to picture what a crowd of regulars who want to listen to Barry Manilow every night would look like.

Oh well. I don't have time for that. I have to fix a Tom Cruise misunderstanding with my wife.

Dear, it was just an analogy. Put away your makeup case. I'll jump on the couch, if that will help.


George_Braziller 4 years, 9 months ago

It seems like the food exemption would only apply to the bar that was there at the time the requirement went into effect and not extended in perpetuity to all the subsequent bars at that location.

Chad Lawhorn 4 years, 9 months ago

It runs with the property, but the exemption can expire if a property is vacant for a certain period of time. At least that is my understanding. Thanks, Chad

George_Braziller 4 years, 9 months ago

So if, theoretically, a shoe store opened there tomorrow and operated for ten years and closed a bar could go back in into the building with the food exemption still in place?

Chad Lawhorn 4 years, 9 months ago

No. I don't believe so. I think once the property no longer has a liquor license for a certain period of time, it loses its grandfather status. But all this is from memory, not from a recent conversation I've had with city officials.

patkindle 4 years, 9 months ago

no more dueling pianos? that will be a culture shock for a few, (a very few)

Chad Lawhorn 4 years, 9 months ago

He made no mention of a Snooker table, and I didn't ask. The last time I played Snooker in Lawrence was at King Arthur's at 23rd and Iowa. The place isn't King Aurthur's anymore, and I don't think it has a Snooker table anymore. Not sure if there is one in town anymore.

bornherelongago 4 years, 9 months ago

Excuse me for being an old fuddy duddy, but pool halls are a great breeding ground for bar fights. Considering the history of this particular location, I'm surprised they are risking their license by inviting that activity. I hope it goes well for them. I'd like to see it succeed. But I also hope they have good security.

GeneParmesan 4 years, 9 months ago

Yes, Prof. Hill, you're right.

Trouble, oh we got trouble, Right here in River City! With a capital "T" That rhymes with "P" And that stands for Pool

MarcoPogo 4 years, 9 months ago

Since you're an "old fuddy duddy", let me assure you that there is a big difference between a "Last Call" wannabe-gangsta throwdown and a good ol' fashioned pool room fight.

gatekeeper 4 years, 9 months ago

Funny... I played Bush league pool for years and years and played in pool halls and bars all over KS. Never saw any more problems than I saw in any other bar.

If they can get some Bush league teams going at this new place, it will be great. I might be willing to sacrifice 1-2 nights a week again to play on a team.

I'm looking forward to visiting. There's really no good place to play pool in Lawrence and this is within walking distance for me. Win, win!

Only advice is that they should have some rent by the hour tables at this new bar. It gets too expensive to feed the tables when good players are at the table and games don't last very long (compared to the unskilled who just hit the balls around the table and hope something falls in). Many of us from the old league are known for not letting the opponent get a chance and games can last only a few minutes.

jack22 4 years, 9 months ago

I agree, some big drop pocket tables that can be rented by the hour and half hour would be a great addition.

George_Braziller 4 years, 9 months ago

Add a couple of tables for dominoes. I'd go a couple of times a month just to get together with some friends and play while drinking a beer. Anyone under 50 sees the word "dominoes" and only thinks pizza not realizing it's an actual strategic game..

Sherry Warren 4 years, 9 months ago

There are quite a few folks who play dominoes (and some are under 50) at Centro Cigars, but you have to be able to deal with the cigar smoke.

Keith 4 years, 9 months ago

I'll look in again now that they're open, but the only tables I saw were short bar tables. Would a pool league even play on those?

Joe Hyde 4 years, 9 months ago

Many would disagree with this, but I think coin-operated pool tables ruin the game of pool. They ruin it because a coin table's ball-trapping mechanism defeats one of the most important rules of the game; specifically, that if the shooter pockets a ball but scratches (sinks the cue ball, too), there is no way while the game is being played that the shooter can release that target ball from the mechanical trap. Thus the shooter gets unfairly rewarded for scratching the cue ball following a pocketed target ball. The shooter gains advantage by being "allowed" to count as a hit every sunk target ball that is followed by a scratch.

Whereas when the game gets played on a proper, regulation-size pool table, following a scratched shot the target ball must be manually pulled from the pocket and spotted. The ball comes out; the shot does not count. To be scored a hit (and get removed from the table), the spotted ball must be sunk again, sunk without the shooter scratching the cue ball. Only by making a clean, no-scratch shot is the shooter credited with sinking a target ball.

Playing on the larger, regulation-size table is also far more interesting and challenging, because many of the shots taken involve longer distances across the table. For the shooter the "larger playing field" forces mental calculations that are trickier to decide due to the added factor of ball speed, not just of the cue ball but also the target ball once struck.

Coin tables are pretty much an insult to the great game of pool.

koman 4 years, 9 months ago

Agreed. I'm guessing you can get a vendor to put the tables in for little or nothing and split the take. I'm guessing putting in actual drop-pocket tables would be a much more substantial investment.

Out of curiousity, where can an average player get play on a league in Lawrence? Don't have a team but if someone were short for a pool league I would be in.

Richard Heckler 4 years, 9 months ago

This is nothing but another bar no matter how the owners whoever they are try to deceive the public. This is the same location where many gun shots rang out for quite awhile and patrons were forced into the street.

Will the violence be born again? More bars = more expense for law enforcement.

I question the variance on food. Ordinances in Lawrence are easily subverted. How boring a bar with no fresh cooked food service. No grilled cheese,no cheese with lettuce and tomato, no french fries,no tofu burgers,no BLT, no tempeh rueben, no ham and cheese....... just beer.

agitatedbacon 4 years, 9 months ago

Oh no! People like different things than I do. How dare someone somebody want to go to a dance club that doesn't serve food! How dare some KU students have a few drinks in an establishment without a terrible failure inducing restaurant requirement. We need to fix this problem right now by legislating my tastes into the city code!

I have a better idea - if you don't like bars that don't serve food, don't go to one. I think the city did a smart thing limiting the number of bar only establishments lest they take over the city but eliminating them completely would not be good for downtown or Lawrence in general. Student nightlife is part of college towns, and the fact is, most students don't care about crappy bar food. If you don't like it, you are welcome to move to a thriving metropolis without a university like Ottawa or Tonganoxie.

a34123h9038419 4 years, 9 months ago

I didn't see too many Topeka thugs there when it was the goofy dueling piano bar. I think they all have moved on.

Topple 4 years, 9 months ago

Sounds good to me. I've wanted a pool hall for downtown Lawrence.

I prefer the coin operated. I can come in, play one or two games, then leave. I don't have to buy an hour at the table if I only want to be there 20 minutes.

Terri Ferguson 4 years, 9 months ago

Astro's is a good place to play pool. Not close to downtown, but has a lot of tables.

Topple 4 years, 9 months ago

Good call. That's significantly closer to my house and don't have to deal with downtown parking.

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