For over twelve years, I’ve toyed with the idea of opening a “Billiard Club.” Most recently in 2013, when a sizeable space became available – in a local small shopping mall.
My only question: Could a billiard hall, located in Osceola County, Florida, generate enough income to sustain itself? To cover basic operating costs: licenses and permits, insurance, rent, utilities, taxes. I never thought about earning enough to cover my own basic living expenses.
A recent job posting reminded me of that dream. In a big way. The expansive resort boasted over 1500 rooms and suites – and featured a “Billiard Club.” Originally designed to replicate the mid-1800s men’s billiard clubs of western Europe.
The private posting stated that the “Billiard Club” was slated for restoration, and some upgrading. And the painter’s first major project would entail (1) repainting all painted surfaces; (2) refinishing all wood paneling, trim and built-ins; (3) installing custom wallcovering – period flock, floral, stripe, frieze – in every room of the club; and (4) hanging a wrap-around mural in the main rotunda.
With a click, I was taken on a virtual tour of the property. My first main focus: that “Billiard Club.” I was neither disappointed nor discouraged at what I saw. If anything, the close-up tour reminded me why I’d chosen painting and decorating instead of medicine.
At every turn and every click, I saw the marks of age, and signs of improper treatment. Unusual considering the exclusivity and location of the resort.
The club’s “lobby” looked drab and tired. Its crimson-on-ivory flocked paper was faded and discolored, also torn in more obscure spots. The fox hunting mural in the “Cloak Room” looked washed out and cleaned inappropriately. The wrap-around mural – a complement to the hunting mural – behind the front desk, showed signs of past major mold and mildew damage. And, cleaning with chemical solutions that had been too strong for old wallpaper.
Views of the individual billiard rooms – five of them – showed signs of surface abuse. Expensive ceiling-to-floor wood paneling – walnut, cherry, ebony – bore water damage, uneven and “spot” re-staining, long scratches, and even gouges (from billiard cues hitting into walls?).
In one room, it looked like sections of the wood chair railing had been scraped with steel wool or a wire brush. Once exquisite wallcoverings had been cut, torn, even frayed. A one-wall mural, that depicted a boat scene on the Siene River, had odd vertical shiny areas. Like clear, yellowed varnish.
The main and largest room – the “Billiard Gallery” – appeared in fairly good condition. Still, the paneling needed restoring. The wallcovering needed to be removed very carefully, then replaced.
The rotunda ceiling mural – actually a hand-painted scene of The Themes River – needed a thorough cleaning before any repairs and restorative painting could be done.
The “Tea Room and Lounge” and the three bathrooms appeared to need the most work. Color-coordinated wallpapers and decorative finishes covered the walls and ceilings of each of these rooms.
In the “Lounge” area, the half-wall cherry paneling and built-in bookcases needed to be stripped, filled, sanded, re-stained, and wax-treated. The burgundy-on-ivory flock paper needed a soft, damp rag cleaning.
The muted forest green houndstooth-patterned wallpaper in each bathroom was very faded and worn – not worth saving. In fact, much of its nubby texture was simply gone. All of the frieze-faux ceiling designs had been damaged by water leaks, in some areas more than others.
As it turned out, neither the “Billiard Club” nor I were to get the opportunity to benefit from each other. About 9 am one morning my letter of interest, resume and photographic samples of my work reached the hands of the resort’s director of engineering and facilities. He called. We discussed our mutual interests and goals – including “billiard clubs.”
On the same day, about 4 pm, he called again. Clearly disheartened. The resort corporation’s president had notified him that, at two that afternoon, the board had voted to (1) close the “Billiard Club” and two restaurants; (2) cut the facilities management staff by one-fourth; and (3) reduce all departmental budgets by 25-30 percent.
The resort painter position was to be eliminated by May 30, 2014. The remaining “maintenance team” would be expected to take care of all paint-related duties and work orders.
On the same day that I drafted this blog, the same director of engineering called again. He said, “I checked you out with a hotelier friend in Miami. He met you when you worked on an Art Deco hotel restoration on Lincoln Avenue. You didn’t mention that in your résumé.”
Trying not to sound complacent, I explained that the project had been done over twelve years ago. His response to that was enlightening. “These resume people and tracking system people are losing people like me a lot of great workers.”
We exchanged a few humorous “billiards” stories. And, we agreed that, the next time I was in his neighborhood, I was to stop in and introduce myself.
I wanted to tell him, “It’s a shame we won’t be able to go upstairs and enjoy a short game of pool – billiards.” But, frankly, I didn’t have the heart to say one word about “The Billiard Club.” That type of conversation was reserved for between friends. Especially at a time like that.