Taking A Cue

Eau Claire pockets a new billiards hal

Thadeus Logan |

The next time you’re in a bar, take a look around. A hard look is probably necessary – check behind the throng of people, the stools and bar, the drunkenness. And there, towards the back, if you looked with the requisite verve of a Columbus or Magellan, you might find what could be called a pool table. Bars know where they make their money and keep their focus in this area: lotsa drinks, ready and waiting. Now, this is understandable, and even desirable to many people whom, like me, enjoy the company of a few drinks occasionally or constantly. But the consequence of this is that other bar-staples, most notably the pool table, become mere objects occupying the periphery. Frayed and drink-stained from long-term neglect, these lonely green wallflowers sit behind the fun, sulking and depressed.

Not so at London Road Billiards.

“My focus here isn’t the sale of alcohol, but the playing of pool,” Louis Paffel, the proud owner of Eau Claire’s newest, and only, pool hall, explains. The hall is not designed for the drinker, but for the pool player, “so the tables are going to be well-kept, clean, and ready to play on.”

Located at 2503 London Road, LRB is nestled in a building near the Clairemont intersection. Inside, Louis’ tables look like the “before” pictures of those methamphetamine billboards – clean, spotless, smooth, and healthy – compared to the “after” pictures that most pool tables in bars resemble – dirty, stained, pockmarked, and sick. While the atmosphere of LRB mimes traditional bar themes well (there are sets of four green, conical lamps hanging above every table, a jukebox belting out tunes, TV sets to view the game, quirky wall-décor, and even pinball and darts) the missing tavern elements are all assets to Louis.

“Drinks aren’t allowed near or on the tables. There’s room for family and friends to enjoy their food and drinks, but space around the table to give players the room they need.”

There is also no smoke- or beer-stench present. Even without the smoking ordinance, he says, Louis would have kept the felt-ruining tar out of his establishment. This is because London Road Billiards doesn’t just cater to pool aficionados who have too long suffered from the oppression and marginalization of crowded bars, but also to normal, Eau Clairian families who are just looking for a fun night out.

“I studied pool halls in the Cities to see what worked and what didn’t, and was able to build a list of what I wanted to have in my hall. I want this to be a family-friendly environment. There’s food and drinks available, and obviously games, but there really isn’t a bar present.”

The tone of the hall is one of fun and safety. Louis’ hours of operation go no later than midnight, because of a city ordinance specifically banning pool halls from staying open later. “I guess there have been problems in the past with 24-hour halls and delinquent kids or drug trafficking. But that won’t happen here. This is a family-themed, safety-conscious business.”

Other LRB qualities include a “women play free with a paid partner” policy, weekly tournaments with cash prizes, and a functioning kitchen (boasting the usual fried food, from the state-mandatory cheese curd, to the oft-misunderstood cauliflower). Two-dollar tap beers, bottled soda, and some varieties of pizza round out the menu. Whether you’re a family out on the town, a lowly pool junkie, or just looking for a nice place to hang out, LRB, and its vibrant felt landscape, will be waiting.

London Road Billiards, 2503 London Road. Open 10am-midnight Sundays-Thursdays, 10am-2am Fridays-Saturdays. 552-7377.