Edwardo Beltran wants to bring pool sticks, cue balls, chalk and billiard tables to downtown Merced.
The 26-year-old, who moved to Merced when he was 3, feels there is a need in town for both adults and young people to have something fun to do.
"When I was younger and growing up in Merced, I remember going out to Merced Billiards Club. There really wasn't much to do in Merced as I was growing up. I would go out there and have a lot of fun," he said.
A year or so ago, Ferroni's Golden Cue Billiard on Yosemite Park Way shut down because Caltrans needed the space for roadwork, according to Mike Conway, the city's public information officer. Merced Billiards Club, located on Canal Street, also closed down a few years ago, according to Beltran.
Beltran's endeavor would bridge the UC Merced community with downtown -- allowing more youngsters to hang out downtown while bringing more revenues and people there.
The conditional use permit for the hall was approved -- with some modifications -- by the city Planning Commission at its meeting Wednesday.
"(This would) provide a service to the community and vitalize the downtown area," Mark Hamilton, planner, said at the meeting. "(It) adds into the mix of a lively downtown. It is a good fit for a healthy downtown area."
A permit is needed for billiard halls with six or more tables or that serve alcohol in a central commercial zone, according to the report. The 3,500-square-foot hall, located at 450 W. Main St., would house 14 pool tables and a supplementary food area that could serve beer and snack foods.
An issue the police department was concerned with was the sale of alcohol, according to Kim Espinosa, planning manager for the city.
"There will be people under the age of 21 there," she said.
Beltran said he spoke with Police Chief Norman Andrade and "his concern was mostly how it was going to prevent minors from drinking alcohol."
In order to mitigate those conditions, the commission changed a condition in its report to have patrons over the age of 21 wear wristbands during all hours of operation, instead of from 9 p.m. to 2 a.m. They also added in youth under the age of 18 will require the attendance of a parent or a guardian after 6 p.m. daily.
"This is to ensure the safety of the youth and ensure no youth are there who are unsupervised," said Hamilton.
Other conditions from the commission include no alcoholic drinks allowed along the corridor to the bathrooms; and if alcohol is served inside the hall, it will be in the food area of the hall, according to the report.
And any music played in the hall will be played at a level that serves the patrons and can't be heard by other businesses, according to the commission's report.
"We just wanted to make sure because sometimes they do have music in these places and other kinds of places have the same kind of issue," Espinosa said, adding that the commission wants to make sure the hall isn't disturbing other businesses or private residents.
The hall would be open from 11 a.m. to 2 a.m. daily and employ at least two workers -- possibly more on weekends, according to Beltran.
The proposed hall would also share space with Playhouse Merced, which stages shows in the Black Box Theatre.
"The building is divided into two suites, the back side of the building is actually part of the Playhouse Merced and there is a hallway that would lead from the proposed billiard hall back to the bathrooms," Espinosa said. "The bathrooms are shared by the tenants."
"They're really excited about it, and they support it and they are looking forward to it as well," Beltran said.
Playhouse Merced also declined to comment Wednesday afternoon.
There was one letter of opposition in the report from A. Howard Larson, who opposed the permit because "of the impact on children and women attending functions next door at the Playhouse Merced and the Black Box in the same building. The use of alcohol, the shared bathroom facilities, the negative impact of congested parking all make a poor environment for the existing area." Larson declined to comment further on his letter Wednesday afternoon.
Beltran said the hall is almost ready to go, and should be up and running in the next few weeks.
Espinosa said there is an appeal period of five days after approval of the permit, after which the tenant can move into the building.
And maybe someday there'll emerge a Merced Fats to hustle in Beltran's place.
Reporter Ameera Butt can be reached at (209) 385-2477 or firstname.lastname@example.org.