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New nightlife destination approved for former home of Al’s Billiards
Al's billiards - 39 Milestone
Some iconic branding of Al’s Billiards will be removed, as a conditional use permit for a new bar at the 128 S. Center St. location has been approved. Applicant Dan Leonis plans on removing the tin warehouse that was originally used for storage to accommodate for new restrooms and offices, while he is unsure of his plans with the front vertical sign once he has it removed (CHRISTOPHER CORREA/The Journal).

What has become known as the “Al’s Billiards” building at 128 S. Center St. will soon be getting a revamp and new name, as a conditional use permit for a new bar was unanimously approved by the Turlock Planning Commission at their latest meeting on Thursday.

The name of the new nightlife destination in the 111-year-old and 3,568 square-foot brick building will be 39 Milestone. Applicant Dan Leonis explained that the name stems from his family cabin within the El Dorado National Forrest.

“Our cabin is 39 miles down the track, the old Pony Express route. Every milestone is a mile, so it’s 39 miles from Placerville. We’ve had the cabin for 30 years, so that’s the whole reason behind that,” he explained.

Under the conditional use permit, 39 Milestone will be allowed to serve alcohol, have a stage for live music and have other forms of entertainment throughout the premises, such as darts, shuffleboard and billiards.

The building itself will be getting a facelift, too, with some iconic signage and branding from Al’s Billiards expected to be taken down or moved. At the front of the building, construction will get underway to accommodate outdoor seating within the building’s original footprint. There are reportedly no issues with the outdoor seating idea, as the building’s entry will be recessed 10 feet, thus not causing any blockage of the public sidewalks. The project will force the original Al Billiard’s signage to be taken down, though Leonis is unsure of what he will do with the iconic vertical sign.

“I’ve had about 50 people ask me what my plans are with the sign. I have people calling me and texting me and I’m not even sure how they got my number,” he joked.

As for the rear of the building, the tin structure with the Al’s Billiards logo will be taken down, with the space to be reconfigured to build new restrooms, an employee office and a stairwell. The upstairs of the building will be used strictly for storage, which was what the tin building was originally used for.

The approval to get his business endeavors underway in downtown Turlock has been a long time coming for Leonis, as he first submitted plans to renovate the Al’s Billiards building and open a new bar in 2016. He said business circumstances held him back, and under law, the original conditional use permit that was approved had expired after a year.

Fast forward to 2023, and all members of the Turlock Planning Commission are new and had yet to hear the proposal until Thursday’s meeting. Joining the commission were Turlock Police Capt. Miguel Pacheco and Sgt. Michael Parmley to address any security-related questions prior to the vote.

One security measure being taken is that 39 Milestone will have different closing hours than other downtown bars. Pacheco explained that this will not put as big of a strain on security and TPD if issues do take place.

After two separate violent incidents stemmed from bar fights within a week of each other back in January, downtown bars are also now required to have one security guard per 50 patrons, excluding security working entrances and exits. Occupancy for all downtown bars or nightclubs must also be limited to 150 people.

Technology will also be playing a major factor in security measures, as all downtown bars must now have high-resolution video cameras placed at each entrance and exit point of an establishment, as well as have them placed throughout the building. These camera placements will be reviewed and approved by TPD Chief Jason Hedden and must then be maintained by the business owners, with surveillance video saved for a minimum of four weeks.

Additionally, bars and nightclubs in Turlock will be tasked with maintaining systems like PatronScan or similar software. This fairly new technology, originally founded in 2005, is made up of kiosks, which are placed at entrances of establishments. Upon entry, patrons will swipe their ID’s and the software will verify instantly whether it is real or fake, as well as bring up any previously flagged data on an individual, such as warrants or flagged incidents at other establishments. Patrons could be turned away unless they successfully appeal their status to PatronScan or bars themselves. Pacheco explained that, if any situations do arise at an establishment, PatronScan data can be shared with the TPD upon request to quickly identify any troublemakers.

All the measures were welcomed by Leonis.

“For me it’s pretty serious, not just for liability, but if you get a certain amount of calls, you can lose your license, and of course I want everybody to be safe, so I’m glad to be working with the police department to make sure this is safe and we’re doing this the right way,” he said.

Now with the approval of the Planning Commission, Leonis is confident that he can get the project finished in six months’ time.

“I truly appreciate the help of the city staff,” said Leonis. “It was a long process, and they were great to work with, and I’m happy that we’re finally here.”