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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.