Lights go out at pool hall so curtain can raise on new theater

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, December 2, 2009

When I stopped briefly into the Friendly Cue Friday evening, things looked pretty much the same as they always have.
Four tables were seeing action with about 15 guys sizing up shots, quietly pleading for misses or waiting for the next game.
Owners L.B. and Larry Lowe were behind the counter.
They had Davidson College’s Sweet 16 basketball game on the television.
Larry was waiting on a guy who wanted a microwave cheeseburger and Mountain Dew.
The expansive playing area on the other side of the room was quiet, except for the hum of fluorescent lights over the rest of the empty green-felt tables
There were the same Friendly Cue rules on the wall, such as “Be Loud and Be Gone.” The butt buckets and ashtrays stood at the ready. The smell of smoke remained part of the decor, though the Lowes had forbidden pipes and cigars since the beginning of the year.
I walked in because I knew the Friendly Cue was in its last days รณ Monday, to be exact, will be the last.
Larry Lowe, whose name fits his low-key demeanor, plans a subdued farewell. He’ll open up as usual around 1:30 p.m. Monday and, starting at 7 p.m., the Cue will offer free refreshments (as long as they last) and pool at half price until closing.
When the lights go out, the Cue’s 40-plus years of business in Salisbury will come to an end.
“I’m closing up for my birthday, I reckon,” says Larry, who will be 66 next month.
His father, L.B., is 87 and has been working or owning pool halls for some 50 years.
These last several weeks have been puzzling at the East Fisher Street establishment, Larry says.
Yes, he has seen a few people walk in who he hadn’t seen for awhile, and folks have called who heard the Cue was closing, and they’ve asked, “What’s going on?”
They hadn’t been reading the newspaper, Larry guesses. In 2007, the Piedmont Players theater group bought the pool hall building from the Lowes for $340,000 and gave them a year to stay. Meanwhile, the theater organization raised money for the purchase and the building’s transformation some day into a children’s theater.
The year is up Monday. Piedmont Players has told the Lowes they can have April and May to move out all their stuff.
The theater people have been great, Larry says. The puzzling thing has been business. It’s really been slow, reflective of the past several years in Salisbury.
Larry and L.B. have looked around for new places, but the quoted rent prices have been astronomical.
Truth is, Larry says, they probably will move to Mooresville or Statesville, either in a downtown area or a shopping center.
The truth also is, their next pool hall has to be located in a place where the players can buy a few beers if they want, Larry says. A city ordinance in Salisbury prohibits the sale of alcohol in pool rooms and, though the Friendly Cue survived for 40 years under that restriction, business could have been better with beer sales.
“We’ll find another place and lay our heads somewhere,” Larry says.
When they do, he plans to take out an ad in the newspaper here to let people know where the new Friendly Cue is.
These final days have been a bit sad for the Lowes. Stressful, too, Larry says, knowing the big move ahead of them.
They are offering eight to 12 of their tables for sale, in addition to the ones they’ll be taking with them. The prices for the Brunswick, Gandy, National and World of Leisure tables range from $1,500 to $4,000. The prices include complete delivery, set up and equipment to play.
Larry says the Lowes have appreciated everyone’s business, and they will miss a lot of people.
“But you have to go on with life,” he adds.
You know, the newspaper business is a puzzling thing, too. Earlier Friday, I spent time covering former President Clinton’s appearance in Salisbury on behalf of his presidential candidate wife, Hillary.
Later, I was in a pool hall talking about basketball, beer and life with the Lowes.
I much preferred the Lowes.
Contact Mark Wineka at 704-797-4263, or