TURLOCK -- The Turlock Poker Room is dealing itself some bigger digs, complete with a new bar.
On Nov. 1, the city Planning Commission unanimously approved expansion plans that include a full bar and outdoor patio area at the card room's location in Turlock Cinema Center, 2321 W. Main St.
Turlock Poker Room co-owner Phil Rheinschild said the changes are a response to customer demands.
"We have heard regularly from our clients about being able to have alcohol service," he said. "Some even tell us they go to other gaming businesses to have a drink while playing. We heard it enough times that we believed it was something worthwhile to look into."
To accommodate the expansion, the poker room will take over the space that houses Happy Feet Massage, which will move to another site in the complex.
The plans include a 1,320-square-foot bar, a 320-square-foot fenced patio, additional restrooms and a high-roller poker room.
The bar, which will offer full service to patrons and be open to the public, will operate from 6 a.m. to 2 a.m. daily. The poker room will remain open 24 hours.
Concern about patrons
Planning Commissioner Alex Salcedo raised concerns about possible foul language and inappropriate behavior that could be witnessed by families and children because of the business's proximity to Turlock Regal Cinemas.
Rheinschild assured the commissioners that all of the patrons would be in a controlled environment and at least one additional security member would be hired to help with safety concerns.
"The truth is we're already accustomed to managing people who have been drinking today," he said. "People can go to (neighboring business) Lamppost Pizza to get a pitcher, run to a convenience store, even run to the trunk of their car and take a drink. This actually grants us greater control of them."
More hiring anticipated
In addition to beefed-up security, Rheinschild said the poker room will have to add to its staff of 200, including new bartenders, wait staff and dealers.
Planning Commission Vice Chairwoman Soraya Fregosi said she was reassured by Rheinschild's presentation, as well as a positive report from the Turlock Police Department about the card room's past security efforts.
"The police didn't have any concerns and the owner met all of their concerns," she said. "But should this become a problem in the future, they'd have to come back before the planning committee."
The poker room is paying for Happy Feet Massage to move to its new location in the center, which should happen in about two months. Then construction will start early next year. Rheinschild said he expects the full bar to be open in June.
The administrative offices will be moved to another space in the complex to make space for the high- roller poker room. But the number of tables will not be increased, so if the high- roller room is being used, one of the 14 regular tables will be temporarily closed.
The poker room also will increase its maximum capacity from its current 285 people thanks to the additional space.
"All of this is in part based on requests from the customers, and frankly trying to stay ahead of the competition," Rheinschild said. "We're very happy about this move forward."
The Turlock Poker Room has been operating since June 2004, when it opened in a smaller location on West Main Street. It moved to its current location in June 2009.
Bee staff writer Marijke Rowland can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (209) 578-2284. Follow her at www.twitter.com/turlocknow.