Shooting pool is a favorite past time for Salvador Perez of Porterville. And one of his favorite places to do it was in Lindsay.
“For me it is the best time you can have besides fishing,” Perez said.
But eight years ago Perez’s favorite pool hall, Snookers in Lindsay, burned down in a fire. Perez eventually found new places to play billiards in Porterville, but many of his friends weren’t there. He found new places to play again in 2008 when he moved to Georgia but the atmosphere was never the same. And when he moved back to the Porterville area earlier this year, there still wasn’t a pool hall in Lindsay.
“After the last one burned down no one built a new one in town,” he said. “So I figured I would give it a shot. I’m going to be at a pool hall anyway, I might as well be there as the owner.”
Perez contacted the city about available buildings in town and the City talked to him about a small location on Sweet Brier Avenue next to China’s Alley.
“The City was a great help,” Perez said. “[City Planner] Bill Zigler helped with everything I needed to do to open my business.”
On Sept. 24, the Lindsay City Council approved a conditional use permit to allow a pool hall at 142 N. Sweetbrier Ave. in Lindsay. Perez named it “El Ocho Loco,” or Crazy Eight, after his favorite billiard game. He said he wanted a place where packing house workers could walk to after work and play a few games before heading home. But he also wanted a place where teens could hang out and play pool as well. He said he did very well during the Friday Night Markets but didn’t see much green besides the felt on the tables.
“I never intended to sell alcohol but there just wasn’t enough business without it,” he said. “The adults who came in wanted a beer while they played pool and they didn’t stay long when they found out they couldn’t.”
On Nov. 12, Perez returned to the City Council requesting to sell beer at the pool hall. He was granted a second permit allowing the sale of beer only. Wine and distilled spirits were prohibited and people under the age of 21 are not allowed into the pool hall. Perez will continue to offer snacks such as packaged chips, ice cream bars and sodas.
Perez said he wants to keep things affordable so he offers play for just $3 per hour per person, much lower than other places that charge anywhere from 50 cents to $1 per game. Perez currently has four tables, including one snooker table, and is close to getting his beer license from the Alcoholic Beverage Commission (ABC).
“I will be selling beer soon and I hope the business does well,” he said. “I think I will do well here and people in town have a place to play pool.”
Perez and pool players aren’t the only winners. El Ocho Loco means the City of Lindsay has completed another project – filling a former city-owned building that has remained vacant since he Perez moved to Georgia four and a half years ago.
The 800 square-foot building was historically the White Swan bar, which was abandoned for many years. The City purchased the building in 2006 for redevelopment and blight eradication. After purchase the site was named “The Cardinal Zone” and was filled with video games and pool tables for local teens during the Friday Night Market.
In 2007, the building served as a freeze relief center following the citrus freeze of 2007. The recreation center on Sweet Brier Avenue was converted into Lindsay’s One-Stop Freeze Relief Center on Jan. 28, 2007 to meet the needs of residents as Lindsay was ground zero for workers laid off from the citrus industry during the freeze.
Following the economic downturn site development was set aside and the City ultimately decided to sell the building earlier this year.