Capitol Linoleum Club a Bygone Mecca

April 14, 2009

You can judge how long the current crop of legislators and lobbyists have been around the Capitol by whether they remember the Linoleum Club. Long before today’s spiffy Capitol Grill in the underground extension, it was the and only place to hang out and find any semblance of  nourishment, no matter how humble. Located in a dungeon-like setting in the basement, it was ground zero for gossip, strategizing and deal-making during legislative sessions.

Retired Texas Senate Sergeant at Arms Carleton Turner is one who remembers:

“My recollections of the Linoleum Club are a mixed lot. It was one of those circumstances that you don’t appreciate until years later. My experience at the “snack bar” was one of a cramped plain-Jane type food service that had a very limited menu. But in hindsight, it was good food, served by a very appreciative staff, that was very fast and tasty. The linoleum label was the result of the decor, which seemed to be linoleum from floor to the ceiling. But although it was nothing fancy, you got good comfort food in a hurry, and you could be seated next to anyone from the Speaker to Austin’s biggest lobbyist. The staff members were all blind,  but that was no hindrance because they knew every step of the kitchen. And although it operated in less than 1000 square feet, it was the best-utilized spot in the whole Capitol”

The Linoleum Club fell victim to the massive renovation and extension of the Capitol following the near-disasterous fire in then-Lt. Governor Bill Hobby’s apartment in 1983. The project was completed in 1995. Speaking of the present-day Grill,  House Administration Committee Chair Charlie Geren is getting applause from the crowd for keeping it open late this season to accommodate traffic for after-hours hearings.

–Julian Read

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