Bar owners Geoff Dawson and Mark Handwerger thought Buffalo Billiards would always be around. But this Saturday, their flagship bar is closing after 25 years.
The over 13,000-square-foot Dupont neighborhood spot provided a place to play pool and Skee-Ball and get reasonably priced drinks. It served as a gathering spot for District Trivia and Michigan football fans.
“I don’t know how we pulled it off, but we built an amazing place,” Dawson says.
Handwerger credits the managers and staff, many of whom worked for them for years, for the bar’s long run of success.
The co-owners even counted 11 babies that have been born as a result of people meeting at the bar. But Dawson says that number is a “big underestimate,” citing all the people over the years who have brought their children in to show them where their parents met.
Last November, the building was sold to a developer and the new landlord, WeWork, did not renew the bar’s lease. Buffalo Billiards’ neighbor in the New Hampshire Avenue building, The Front Page, closed this month after 32 years in business.
“[WeWork] didn’t think we were such a good fit for the neighborhood, which I thought was pretty funny,” Dawson says. “I don’t know how you could be a better fit.”
As Dawson and Handwerger prepare for one final last call, they see a city that has changed. Dupont Circle used to be the “hot spot,” but other neighborhoods have been reinvigorated and places they once considered mainstays have closed.
Handwerger fondly recalls attending Mister Days’ “Rally in the Alley” off 18th Street NW; throwing darts at a bar known as the 4Ps in Cleveland Park; and going to shows at The Bayou under Whitehurst Freeway. He and Dawson are glad to see other neighborhood bars like Dan’s Cafe and The Big Hunt still kicking.
This Saturday, Buffalo Billiards is hosting a party for its last day, and customers can buy pieces of its decor, or “Buffalobilia,” through an online auction. Part of the proceeds will benefit So Others Might Eat, a community-based organization that fights poverty.
The co-owners will continue to focus on their other bars, including Bedrock Billiards in Adams Morgan and Atomic Billiards in Cleveland Park. Dawson owns the company behind Penn Social.
As for reopening Buffalo Billiards — Dawson says it’s hard to find a space of that size, but they are keeping an eye out.
Yet Handwerger adds, “You couldn’t really just throw out a shingle at a different address and re-create it.”