By Ayala Ben-Yehuda
With its sleek design and upscale menu, Slate Restaurant, Bar & Billiards in Bayside is trying to make the dingy, run-down pool hall a thing of the past.
Owner Telly Hatzigeorgiou, 36, opened what was once the Bayside Billiards Cafe in 1992 on the site of a former Sanitation Department garage, and renamed the massive space last fall after a $500,000 renovation.
“We felt the area needed a Manhattan-style place,” said Hatzigeorgiou, who opened his first Slate location in Manhattan three years ago. “We try to make it more mainstream and appealing to everyone, from women to families to nightlife.”
Hatzigeorgiou also owns Millennium Billiards in Flushing and The Billiard Company on Austin Street in Forest Hills and recently took over Long Island City’s Golden Q with plans to renovate it by the summer.
“We give people something more to do than either play pool or sit at a bar and drink,” he said. “We try to put everything together.”
The 10,000-square-foot Bayside venue near the corner of Northern Boulevard and Bell Boulevard features design flourishes such as slate flooring, modern imported furniture, a cozy fireside lounge and a 50-foot glass-topped bar that constantly changes color.
In addition, two mega-screen and four plasma televisions, tuned to everything from sports to news to music videos, are visible from every corner of the hall.
Word of mouth has managed to pack the hall on weekends and attract groups such as the United States Tennis Association, which rent it out for parties, said Evelyn Hatzigeorgiou, the founder’s sister and manager of the Bayside location.
Some patrons just sit and enjoy top-shelf cocktails at the bar or listen to music from a house deejay on weekends, but aspiring pool sharks and neophytes alike square off at 27 brand new pool tables.
“We have people that come here every day that are dedicated pool players, and then you have people that come in that know nothing about pool,” said Evelyn Hatzigeorgiou.
For the latter group, Slate plans to set up a free “pool school” to teach novices the rules and techniques of the game.
Although softly lit, the room has enough light for the diner to read the New American menu, which has updated traditional pub fare and includes a house favorite, spicy popcorn chicken as well as hickory-smoked rib tips and spinach salad with grilled chicken.
The kitchen plans to double its menu in the coming months, adding a greater variety of salads as well as wraps, such as a prosciutto-melon wrap with mango mayonnaise, said Evelyn Hatzigeorgiou.
She said the elegant atmosphere has brought in diverse customers, from college students to retirees.
“This is one of the few places I’ve ever known where people of all different demographics come together,” said the manager.
Great Neck resident Victoria Kim, 27, called Slate “a home away from home” where she meets up with other regular patrons who have become her friends.
“It’s a lot more modern now,” said Kim of the billiard hall’s renovation. “It’s a lot like the city.”
Slate Restaurant, Bar & Billiards is located at 45-18 Bell Blvd. in Bayside. For more information, call (718) 631-2646.
Reach reporter Ayala Ben-Yehuda by e-mail at Timesledger@aol.com or call 1-718-229-0300, Ext. 146.