Pinball Machine and Pool Table Regulations

Some popular games get shut down

The Continental Club, along with its nearby little-sister club The Big Top, is a beloved Midtown spot that regularly draws hipsters (of the rock kind) to listen to music, play pool or try their luck at one of the vintage video or pinball machines.

Except these days. If you're looking to play pool or one of the games, you're out of luck.

The Man has shut it all down.

The City of Houston has slapped stickers over the coin slots of the games; if anyone's found playing them, the Continental Club owners get in big trouble.

Blame the Bush crackdown on all things enjoyable. In this case you'd be wrong, though. Instead, blame Pete Gordon, one of the owners of the two clubs.

"The bottom line is, it's my fault," he says.

For years Gordon had employed a company to take care of all the paperwork required to operate what the state calls a "coin-operated amusement machine." This year he decided to do it himself.

"I was kind of feeling my way through the maze blindly this first time," he says. He didn't get all the paperwork done in time, the various fees didn't get paid and the permits that he already had expired.

The state comptroller's office was fine with that — "They said it was okay as long as I was still working on getting it done," he says — but the City of Houston was another matter.

They came in and shut it all down. A board went over the pool table, and the pinball machines were unplugged.

It may be awhile before the pool table reopens, Gordon says. There's no prorating the annual $400 fee, so if he pays it now he'll only get a month or so before he has to pay it again for 2008.

And the future looks even bleaker for the beloved coin games such as Jet Spin, Paddock and 2001 Space Odyssey.

Those games each cost a similar hefty annual fee, but bring in very little in the way of revenue. Not because people don't play them, but because they get to play them for dimes and quarters.

"They don't even pay for themselves with the amount of repairs they need," Gordon says. "But the state charges me as if they were a Golden Tee machine bringing in $100 a night. I always wondered why there were no old pinball machines in bars, and now I know."

Gordon loves the look of the old machines, but probably won't keep them around. He says he may end up giving them away.

Man. Another piece of Olde Houston bites the dust.

Tale of Horror

It was a gruesome tale we recently received in a letter.

"My ten-year-old daughter went to a field trip [to the Houston Museum of Health & Medical Science] and told me it was the worst day of her life," a mother wrote.

"Without my knowledge, they dissected a cow's eye in front of a room of elementary school students," she says. (Imagine how bad the cow felt.)

The mother, whom we won't name because her kid's traumatized enough, said she had called ahead and was told the kids "would see the Sesame Street Display and the Tour of the Body and there would be no dead bodies." (What, the Sesame Street Display doesn't have dead bodies?)

She went on: "Jeffrey Dahmer tortured animals and that was appalling. It's one of the danger signs to see a kid pull legs off insects, etc....So why are they doing this in front of groups of elementary school children?"

Because they are sick fucks who like to give nightmares to little girls, said museum spokeswoman Krista Schroen. Actually, she said the dissection program's been going on for eight years and almost no one's complained.

"It's one of our most commonly re­quested learning tools," she says. "It's unbelievably rare to receive a complaint about it."

And that complaint, it turns out, should not be directed at the Health Museum.

"Ultimately, it's the teacher's discretion to decide if it's appropriate for their class," she said.

Mrs. Dahmer, you've been warned.

AlmostMySpace

Thanks to stellar work by the Houston Chronicle, some of the veil has been lifted off the secrecy surrounding the punishment meted out to U.S. District Judge Samuel Kent of Galveston. (It really wasn’t too much punishment, but then again, he’s a federal judge.) Kent, it turns out, is alleged to have gotten drunk at lunches and then — sensing the mood was right — proceed to hit on female employees. With one he lifted her shirt and bra and put his face to her breast. Shockingly, she objected. But then again, she’s not familiar with Kent’s AlmostMySpace page.

 
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