The archaic signs on the wall of the shuttered Oak Park Billiards warn patrons "No loud or profane language," "No whistling" and those under 17 "must have a letter of permission written and signed by their mother or father to be presented at the counter where they will be kept on file" – that rule is required by state law and village ordinance, the sign reminds.
Ashtrays full of cigarette butts, a broken down payphone and a desktop computer equipped with a floppy disc drive also provides clues about the closure of the once-popular pool hall at 1019 South Blvd.
With unopened mail still on the front counter and pool tables and equipment still in place, the business seems to have closed one day and left to collect dust.
Now, after an inexplicable 10-year hiatus, the 8,500-square-foot retail space is back on the market, and real estate broker Ed Restificar said it's already attracting a lot of interest.
"I have a buyer [looking at it] right now and three or four others [who are interested]," he said.
Restificar couldn't say exactly when the business closed its doors.
"Maybe eight or 10 years ago," he guessed, but said he used to play there with a local attorney in the 1990s. A pile of magazines near the front desk have publishing dates from 2007 – on the top of the stack lies a copy of Black Enterprise magazine that makes the case for "Why Barack Obama Should Be President."
He said the building is currently on the market for $575,000, and the pool equipment is available at a discount. Otherwise, he's going to sell the tables along with the racks, balls and pool cues.
Restificar noted that the property has three parking spaces in the back and added that any renovations needed are purely cosmetic. Removing the drop ceilings added to the property – painted pool-hall green – would add roughly five feet to the height of the space, Restificar noted.
Prior to its closure, Oak Park Billiards had a long history in the village, stretching back to its founding in 1936 by David Lorimer, according to a 1994 Chicago Tribune article. Lorimer made the cover of the March 23, 1923 edition of Billiards Magazine for being a "Prominent Roomkeeper Who Is a Booster for Clean Billiards."
The Tribune story by writer David Young notes that it was "one of the few old-line pool rooms to survive. It did so by becoming a local youth center, of sorts," where "gambling, swearing and booze" were prohibited.
A Wednesday Journal article "They shoot straight – and clean at Oak Park Billiards" dated Sept. 1, 1982 – framed for public viewing at Oak Park Billiards also gives a glimpse to the history of the pool hall.
The article, written by Edward M. Bury, also notes that "most of the tables at Oak Park Billiards were built before 1920 by the Brunswick company, which is still one of the finest table manufacturers in the nation."
Those tables were previously owned by Lorimer's Bowling Alley, formerly located at Marion Court and North Boulevard "before it became a parking lot," according to the article.
Restificar said he believes part of the interest in the location is driven by new mixed-use developments planned for the area – Oak Park Station, a 271-unit development near Lake and Harlem, and Lincoln Properties' plans for a 263-unit development at Harlem and South.
That will drive traffic to the location and has helped bring other businesses to the area like Connolly's Public House, an Irish-themed restaurant and pub at 1109 South Boulevard.
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