Pool hall time capsule back on the market

Oak Park Billiards up for sale as developers flood area

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By Timothy Inklebarger

Staff Reporter

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.

CONTACT: tim@oakpark.com

Reader Comments

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Debbie Demondo  

Posted: March 20th, 2018 6:03 PM

Richard Katz mentions Vern Thompson and the "Hall" back in the 60s... VT as he was known did indeed run a tight ship. Many a weekend evening had Vern standing at the front door and if you were welcome he would give Doug the counter man the nod and you were buzzed in. Vern was also careful to steer the locals away from the hustlers and sharks .. " RD , that's not the game for you" he'd tell me on the sly when I was about to get in over my head... Then there were the big 9 ball games on table"1" ... 4-5-6 way for $5 - $25 a man!! Big Jimmy King.. Broadway Joe.. Bobby Fratto..Carrie Zimmerman... man those were PLAYERS!.. Those were the days!!!!

Andrew Trakszelis  

Posted: June 16th, 2016 4:19 PM

Spent the better part of my 20s in Oak Park Billiards in the later 80s and early 90s; Jojo always called me Andy Gibb. Great memories and many life lessons in both winning and losing on table 1. Just walked the past the building for the first time in over 20 yrs and was sad to see it closed but it looked exactly like it did all those years ago.

Harry Evans IV from Oklahoma city  

Posted: April 14th, 2016 3:28 AM

Ran my very first nineball rack here on a snooker table with my brother J.D. Howard That was ten years ago. Would love to see the place again with its heritage and everything in tact and a little updated

Moe Kaye  

Posted: March 31st, 2016 9:38 AM

Oh my!!! I would love to see this place reopen as a vintage pool hall. Once, I guess it must have been about ten years ago, when it was going to be my turn to pick a place to celebrate my birthday, I told my friends we were all going to play pool at Oak Park Billiards. Guess what, it closed a few weeks before my birthday! For a while there was a notice that indicated it would be reopening soon, and I held out hope that my friends would eventually toast my belated birthday, but alas, it was not to be.

Frank Smith from Oak Park  

Posted: March 30th, 2016 10:52 PM

equipment sold at a discount!? Dude, gimme! I absolutely would raid that place the moment that sale happens as i've unfortunately fallen in love with this sport. I is a hopeless sort of love, an addiction that feeds on the mind and wallet, unable to be freed from the grasps of the tables. Too bad this place wasnt open last summer, or I'd've made this place my castle, never to be seen to the outside world again. Someone purchase this building, or wait till I win the lottery so I may claim it for myself. If they've got a decent Snooker table, I call dibs, and anyone who challenges me will get beat with a cue ball. I guess I grew up in the wrong time, when people would rather be on their playstations than out with friends getting blitzed and running out on the tables. Ah what good times those must have been.

Ted Wynne  

Posted: March 30th, 2016 8:55 PM

Treasured memories. Jojo and Nina ran the place in the early 90s. Bob had the counter early on the weekends and he would run racks on me on table 1 when there were few customers. Gambling losses=9 ball lessons much of the time, but the wins were oh so sweet. Pat Tulley said I was one of the luckiest "good" players he knew. High praise from a master. Overall, given the lack of social outlets for a suburban/Oak Park youth under 21 looking to stay out somewhere past 10, it could have been worse.

James West  

Posted: March 30th, 2016 3:32 PM

Richard Katz, it use to be known as Lorimer's, and did have a lot of customers, which eventually slowed down. The tables were not kept in good working condition, and that may be because there was not enough money to pay for the repairs. There was some very good pool players who would come in once in a while, and play a few games of 9 ball, for money. It would be nice to have a pool hall back in Oak Park, although to attract a new group of customers would require renovation, and the addition of a bar, and food for sale. The day's of resting a cigarette on the rail when trying to run the table, is now just a memory of some enjoyable times.

Carolyn Cullen  

Posted: March 30th, 2016 12:26 PM

Yes, it'd be great if either the current owner or new one would let Oak Park folks buy those memorable items! (assuming they can't just make it a pool hall again, which would be fine. :) )

Richard Katz from Oak Park  

Posted: March 30th, 2016 8:39 AM

A haven for my friends and me back in the '60s. Vern Thompson ran the place and he was a true gentleman and a straight shooter. We learned how to play and learned many life lessons as well.

David Schuster from Oak Park  

Posted: March 29th, 2016 8:52 PM

I've always wondered about the history of this place every time I've been by the past 10yrs I've lived here.

Marie Perkins from Oak Park  

Posted: March 29th, 2016 7:41 PM

Will any of the items inside be for sale?

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