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Right on Cue: 330 W tranforms old Danville pool hall into upscale eatery

December 25, 2010|By DAVID BROCK | dbrock@amnews.com
  • Jan and Mark Cassidy created 303 W's menu to offer a fine dining experience closer to home.
David Brock

With the rate that new dining establishments have been opening over the past six months, holiday visitors who haven’t been back to Danville in a while might have to do a double take the first time they visit downtown.

303 W, the most recent eatery to open its doors, did so with little fanfare but has attracted attention and customers because of the location in a mid-19th century building that housed a pool hall for more than 50 years.

Owner Mark Cassidy, a veteran of the restaurant business, and his wife Jan have transformed what was Ace Billiards on Main Street into the cozy, wood-paneled restaurant. Mark said it hasn’t taken long for people to start coming in for lunch and dinner.

“We’ve had a full house almost every day,” Cassidy said.

303 W is the third restaurant and bar to take advantage of the lower seating requirements for businesses that serve alcohol under the new law, and the second after Bluegrass Pizza and Pub to go into a Main Street building. Including the tables, bar and billiard area, 303 W. has a capacity of 49 people.

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Cassidy said the timing was right to create a restaurant and bar in a smaller setting that many envisioned when the effort began to make the town wet.

“When Danville got the option to have a smaller size restaurant it was a great opportunity,” Cassidy said.

“We definitely saw the chance to become a neighborhood gathering place downtown. Last night almost everyone going to their table stopped to talk to the people sitting at the other tables. It has been great to see.”

The Cassidys and the building’s owner, Mike Perros, undertook a massive renovation project which they say was intended to remake the space while maintaining much of the historical quality of the structure that was built in the late 1800s.

The dining room has a number of distinctive architectural features, including the stamped tin roof and hardwood floors. The walls, for decades covered by layers of ancient horsehair plaster, have been returned to the original exposed brick. Windows and doorways have also been refurbished.

Jan, whose family has deep roots in Boyle County, said the black-and-white photos that make up much of the decor are an attempt to reflect the history of the place and the people. One large wall extending from the end of the bar will be reserved for old pictures customers bring in to hang.

“We tried to gather things that would be of interest to people and spark pride in the community,” Jan said.

“The pictures really make the history of the town come alive. A lot of people have already come in just to look around and see faces they recognize.”

Perros said efforts were made to maintain some of the character from Ace Billiards, the lease for which he bought out earlier this year to make way for the restaurant.

On the other side of a coffee shop style sitting area that includes a table and large love seats, there are still two of the original tables from the pool hall. Although it isn’t turned on, Perros said a gas flame once used by smokers to light cigarettes in the back of the restaurant was also kept.

Ambiance notwithstanding, the food and drink will pay the bills. The menu includes what the Cassidys call traditional American fare in addition to a fully stocked bar that features 15 bourbons. Mark said the full-service lunch menu, including items like Reubens, steak sandwiches and salads, is geared toward the downtown clientele he is banking on during the week.

Jan said they hope the setting will provide area residents with a slightly more upscale option that doesn’t require a long drive.

“We hope that we can be a place that entices people to stay home because we can offer something here that they don’t have to drive to Lexington for anymore,” Jan said.

It is Mark Cassidy’s first time opening a restaurant on his own, but he has worked around restaurants and food service for decades.

The Pennsylvania native worked for Ruby Tuesday, opening their locations throughout the United States before being transferred to Lexington in 1993 and  deciding to settle his family in Danville because he wanted to raise his kids here.

Later he worked as food and beverage director at the Danville Country Club, spent five years operating the hotel and restaurant at Shaker Village and finally returning to the country club as general manager.

This restaurant is a family endeavor for Cassidys, with Mark and Jan running the restaurant and son Jacob Parker running the kitchen. Jan brings a background as a small businesswoman, having started a medical testing business she still operates.

Perros is founder of the Perros Group and senior vice president of investments for Stifel Nicolaus with offices next door to the restaurant.

Perros said he wasn’t sure exactly what the next step would be once the alcohol law was changed.

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