Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Former Far West Billiards owner gives his side of the closure story

Posted By on Tue, Jul 5, 2011 at 4:46 PM

The last night at Far West Billiards.
The last night at Far West Billiards.

Andrew Sackville-West has been hearing a lot of rumors. As the former owner of Far West Billiards, which abruptly closed last week, Sackville-West, 41, says he’d like to clear the air and show what really happened — a slow decline, an accidental save and a series of miscommunications.

Sackville-West started the bar back in 2000, with his “bloody, raw hands.” He says it was “an experiment” in Spokane — he was going for the vibe of Washington, D.C., bars, combining high-quality service with comfort. But business started to wane, and Sackville-West began to start thinking of closing the bar.

“I put my heart and soul into that business for the first several years and worked tirelessly nonstop,” says Sackville-West. “At some point I lost my passion in it. I saw that it would be nothing more than a back-breaking job for me.”

When the bar experienced severe flooding last year, Sackville-Westthought that would be the end, a sure sign it was all over. But that’s not quite what happened.

“Insurance kicked in and ironically enough, sort of saved us,” says Sackville-West, adding that after they reopened, things didn’t get better.

“We never made any of this ground over the winter. It was clear this summer was going to be as bad as last summer, if not worse.”

So negotiations began with landlord Rob Brewster, but Sackville-West says he wanted to keep them quiet. The bar hadn’t turned a profit in three years, and he thought that being open with the decline of the bar may taint the public image of the building itself — he says he didn’t want the space to get a bad reputation.

But recently, the series of miscommunications led Brewster into preparing the space for renovations. Furniture was moved in and Far West General Manager Yvonne Millspaugh told Sackville-West that she couldn’t operate under those conditions. That’s when they decided to pull the plug. Immediately.

“There’s rumors spreading over Spokane that it’s the landlord’s fault and all this stuff, and that’s just not true. … It’s an over-simplification,” says Sackville-West.

In any case, he acknowledges that aside from Millspaugh, the other staff were probably only “intuitively aware” of the decline in business, one that left them abruptly unemployed last week.

As for Sackville-West, he lives in Portland, where he has been enrolled in Portland State’s Ph.D. program in Computer Science for the past year. He says that although he is relieved to have washed his hands of Far West, he still cherishes what it meant and what it provided.

“I’m still very proud of the almost 11 years we’ve had,” says Sackville-West. “It’s been a great place for me and my family, and I certainly have no regrets. I am happy we did it.”

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