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Downtown Winston Bar Getting Revamped

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Apparently Recreation Billiards, the old bar across from the Steven's Center is getting a facelift!! While its still going to keep its blue collar character its going to tweak a couple of things to attract some of the younger bar crawlers. Its good to see such an old mainstay on Fourth Street getting some work done on it!! It appears renovations are well underway and it should reopen in the spring.

Change of Face: Downtown fixture is getting fixed up

By Laura Giovanelli

JOURNAL REPORTER

Link To Article

George Bambalis (left) and his father, Pete Bambalis, talk about how their family-run pool hall has changed over the years. Right now, Recreation Billiards is getting a makeover.

It was newsworthy in 1978 when Pete Bambalis installed a women's bathroom at his pool hall on Fourth Street in downtown Winston-Salem. So imagine the uproar when Recreation Billiards' rusted-out sign, a 59-year-old weathered shade of red, came down two weeks ago.

"We're closed for a few weeks," Bambalis shouted into the bar phone over the clang of a ladder.

Outside, two men took putty knives to the thick black paint, scraping time off the wooden facade like archaeologists on a dig.

This bar, the embodiment of a downtown blue-collar watering hole - with a jar of pickled eggs on the bar top and men in dirt-caked work boots nursing Budweisers - is getting the unthinkable.

A facelift.

Four pool tables are now ghostly shrouds, covered with tarps and tools, work gloves, paint brushes, faded billiard balls, a can of WD-40 and a dusty jar of Mt. Olive dill pickles that used to sit on the bar. The "Cold Beer to Go" case will go. The vintage cash register won't. The heating and cooling workers came last week, so on humid summer nights, the pool hall's version of central air will be more than propping open the front door to the hot street.

The window in the front door, busted out years ago and replaced by green-painted plywood, will be back. A replica will replace the old sign - the original brought inside, hung up and lighted with some track lighting against the now-exposed brick walls.

There will be fresh paint, new bar stools (red mahogany and padded!), and a Web site, www.recreationbilliards.com.

"The best things in life never change," the Web site reads. "They just get better."

"We ain't going anywhere, and we ain't changing anything," Pete Bambalis told the Winston-Salem Journal in 2003. "This is a working man's country club," he would declare.

Two years later, his son, George Bambalis, persuaded his cousin, Tom Dombalis, to sit outside with him. From a bench on Fourth Street, the cousins watched nighttime pedestrian traffic along Fourth Street, and, Dombalis said, some of them looked as though they lived downtown, or at least nearby.

Those nights made a believer of Dombalis. On a weeknight, he saw people walking dogs, pouring into the microbrewery down the street and out of the Stevens Center after shows.

They walked right on by Recreation Billiards.

"A lot of people wouldn't venture in," George Bambalis said last week. "Obviously you've got a building that at first glance appeared to be old and dilapidated, and that kind of made people feel uncomfortable."

It was time to renovate, the men agreed.

The family says it is putting $40,000 to $50,000 into the pool hall and hope to reopen this spring, luring some of the younger barflies who typically gravitate toward wine bars.

Regulars are welcome to come back, too.

Whether they will is another matter.

"You can't be all things to all people,"George Bambalis said. "Not everyone will feel comfortable with the changes."

The younger Bambalis is 46 to his father's 81, and like his father, has seen many promises for downtown come and go since his grandfather opened Recreation Billiards in 1947.

What's different this time, George Bambalis says, is that people are moving downtown - actually buying the new condos and renting the renovated apartments.

"You see, downtown is changing," George Bambalis said.

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you might want to add the link instead of posting the article. a moderator will edit your post.

you gotta love a 59 year old business that refuses to leave. :) significant changes continue to come to 4th. i hope this contiues.

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