Cue the fadeout music. Famed Bay Ridge pool hall closes

February 13, 2020 Paula Katinas
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BAY RIDGE — A legendary pool hall has closed its doors for good, leaving its former customers with a lifetime’s worth of memories of cue balls, angle shots and running the table.

Hall of Fame Billiards, at 505 Ovington Ave., had been operating for 56 years before closing on Feb. 9.

“We had a quiet party on the last night,” Paul Balukas, whose family owned the billiards hall, told the Home Reporter. “It was a great run. But all good things come to an end.”

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Balukas spoke to the Home Reporter by phone on Feb. 12, as workers were moving the last of the pool tables out of the hall.

The Balukas family, which owned the Ovington Avenue building as well as the pool hall, recently sold the building, which had been on the market for two years. “I believe it’s going to be turned into a catering hall,” Balukas said.

The last years of its existence had been tough for Hall of Fame Billiards, according to Balukas. “It’s so expensive to run a business of this size. The permit fees, the corporate taxes and everything else starts to add up. Last year was the first year we actually lost money,” he said.

While Hall of Fame Billiards still had lots of regulars who came in to perfect their skills in the hopes of becoming the next Minnesota Fats, the expense of running the business became too much to sustain, Balukas said.

After showing a financial deficit for the first time in the history of the billiards hall, the Balukas family discussed its options and made the painful decision to close.

The family had put the Ovington Avenue building that houses the billiards hall on the market in 2018.

Hall of Fame Billiards was perhaps best known as the launchpad and showcase for Jean Balukas, Paul’s sister, who shot to fame in the 1960s as a child prodigy in billiards and was winning national championships as a teenager, often beating older, male competitors without breaking a sweat.

Jean Balukas was inducted into the Billiards Hall of Fame in 1985.

The business was originally named Ovington Billiards, in deference to the street where it was located. After Jean Balukas became a hall of famer in her sport, the hall was renamed Hall of Fame Billiards.

In recent years, Jean Balukas served as the hands-on owner of the pool hall, putting her stamp on the day to day operations of the place.

“My sister has always been a very shy person. It was my father who got her out there and encouraged her,” Paul Balukas said.

Albert Balukas opened Ovington Billiards in 1964 with a partner, Frank McGown, a world renowned professional pool player, the Home Reporter reported back in 2018.

Albert Balukas died several years ago.

The building where the pool hall opened up in 1964 originally housed Ovington Bowling Lanes.

The billiards hall that replaced the bowling alley boasted 48 pool tables, as well as several ping-pong tables. In recent years, a video game arcade was put in.

The pool hall’s fans included Assemblymember Nicole Malliotakis, who said she often held campaign fundraisers there.

Malliotakis, a Republican representing parts of Bay Ridge and Staten Island, called the closure of Hall of Fame Billiards “a sad day” for her.

“The hall run by the Balukas family that produced a pool prodigy, Jean Balukas, has been a staple in the community since 1964. I’m going to miss the Hall of Fame and will remember fondly all the memories I’ve shared there with family friends and supporters,” Malliotakis wrote on Facebook.

“I want to thank Jean and Paul Balukas for the good times and wish them all the best, as I know this is bittersweet for them,” Malliotakis added.

Paul Balukas said the family does feel sad about the closure, and that he and his siblings are aware of what it means for Bay Ridge.

“It does mark the end of an era for the neighborhood. The pool hall is gone. And all of the old bowling alleys are gone,” he said.

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