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Bingo hall reopens after 2011 fire
Games, held five days a week, draw people countywide
bingo pic
Betty Warren of Turlock checks over her bingo numbers Friday evening during the first game since the fire at the Assyrian Club of Urhai. - photo by JEFF BENZIGER / The Journal

CERES – Bingo games resumed in Ceres Friday evening after months’ worth of repairs were completed to the fire-damaged Assyrian Club of Urhai bingo hall.

A May 2011 fire scorched the wood framed interior of the cinder blocked building, damaging the kitchen and 800 to 900 square feet of floor trusses on the second floor. The interior also sustained smoke damage.

The $800,000 repair bill included all new wiring, windows, tile, and new heating and air conditioning system. Inderjit S. Toor Construction performed the work on the building which was erected in 1975 and used as an Assyrian bingo hall since 1989.

The opening of the hall was good news for numerous bingo enthusiasts in the area. Betty Warren of Turlock arrived early and set up her cards.

“I was always lucky here,” reported Warren, who noted there are no bingo games played in Turlock. “I’ve won a thousand (dollars) several times, one $500 and numerous $250s.”

Warren said the new hall – which has the capacity of 200 people downstairs and 135 upstairs – is beautiful in design.

Games are played 6:30 p.m. (doors open at 4 p.m.) Tuesdays, Wednesdays, Fridays and Saturdays; and Sunday bingo is offered at 2 p.m. (doors open at 11:30 a.m.). Games last several hours. Participants pay $21 to play regular games and with pull tabs, the average person spends about $35 per night of 20 games. Payoffs are normally $250 per game but can be $500.

Funds made by bingo are put back into the community, said Albert Toma of the Assyrian Club. The Assyrian Club donates to community causes and JFK School.

The fire was a significant loss for the club.

“It’s been almost 10 months since the fire started and we have had no other income besides insurance,” said Toma.

The non-profit Assyrian Club is designing plans for an addition to the building and should be in the city’s hands next month, said Harinder Toor.

The Ceres Planning Commission approved the addition last November with some reservation about how the castle-like design of the exterior of the project will look in a commercial area that has a dated appearance.

In a 4-1 vote, the commission approved an Architectural and Site Plan Approval to allow for a 7,171 square foot addition to the south of the existing bingo hall. The single-story addition will result in a 16,283 square foot facility.

The castle design will be achieved by 28-foot-tall tower-like columns along the west and south ends and varying elevations ranging from 16 to 24 feet for the rest of the building. The color schemes call for beige and blue-grey stamped stucco with scores lines to give a brick appearance as well as stone veneer treatments.

One side of the building will serve as the bingo and other side a banquet hall for weddings and community events.

“There is a demand for a banquet hall. We know we can make more money with a banquet hall and bingo.”