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LJWorld.com weblogs Town Talk

Former downtown Lawrence piano bar converted into pool hall, tavern

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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.

Comments

Termcd4 8 months, 1 week ago

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

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consumer1 8 months, 1 week ago

WWWRS What would Will Rogers Say?

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Karl_Hungus 8 months, 1 week ago

I always wanted to open a bar called "Pissers" and it's gimmick would be that beer is dirt cheap but the bathroom would cost $5 and there is a two piss minimum (would have the bar in a location that would not allow peeing outside of the building...or still have cheap drinks but would cost $5 to leave...call the place "Ransom"

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Topple 8 months, 1 week 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.

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Richard Heckler 8 months, 1 week 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.

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Joe Hyde 8 months, 1 week 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.

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Keith 8 months, 1 week 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?

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bornherelongago 8 months, 1 week 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.

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patkindle 8 months, 1 week ago

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

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George_Braziller 8 months, 1 week 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.

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