By Shaun Markey –
Sometimes the stars just align. Such was the case when Rob Johnson needed larger premises for his restaurant: Robz Real Food, famous in the neighbourhood for his home-made smoked beef and turkey sandwiches.
Having recently lost their place to play pool, Jennifer Tucker and her friend were also looking for a location to start up a billiards facility.
Jennifer’s team mate knew Rob and before long the group joined forces to find a space that would accommodate both a restaurant and a billiards hall.
After ruling out a few possible sites, Rob suggested a vacant commercial building on the south side of Carling Avenue just west of Clyde Avenue. He could literally see the building from his present location.
The previous tenant in the building had left after a fire did major damage to the interior. But after one viewing, it didn’t take long for the group to decide that they had found the perfect spot for their joint restaurant / billiards effort.
After twelve months of planning and construction the three partners officially opened the new Pocketz Billiards / Robz Real Food last fall. There was a three-week interval between the closing of Rob’s old location and the opening of the new one. Even though it was a short time frame, many of Rob’s loyal customers were complaining, loudly, that they couldn’t get their sandwich fix.
As they moved toward opening, Jennifer emphasized a key objective. “We wanted a place that would become part of the community,” she says. “We also wanted our customers to feel that they could bring the entire family here.”
As it turns out, that’s exactly what’s been happening. Friends and neighbours are already stopping by for the Sunday afternoon “family day.” League play is nicely underway as well.
For Rob, the new location has provided a 40-seat restaurant space which he didn’t have before. Rob’s meats are fresh and slow roasted every day. Rob also points out that “nothing is pre-frozen and everything is home made on the premises and gluten free.”
The Pocketz billiards area is up a few stairs from the restaurant. One look at the sunlight streaming in from a huge overhead skylight, spotlessly clean floors and a collection of sport-related antiques on the walls and ceiling lets you know right away that this isn’t your average pool hall. A friendly, compact bar area with several seats, custom-made corner benches for group seating and eight pool tables complete the interior.
Commenting on the new operation, Rob admits that it was “like starting over” but the 30-year veteran of the Ottawa food and restaurant industry is already seeing the fruits of his labour. “December was a great month,” he says.
In pool, running the table is a perfect game. The trio at Pocketz and Robz appear poised to do that and more.