Tables & Ale to close after 27 years on Block Avenue

(Dustin Bartholomew, Fayetteville Flyer)

The crack of breaking billiard balls. The buzzing of old beer signs. The music and chatter from the little patio, rising and echoing off the brick buildings along the street. It will all go silent next week when longtime local watering hole and pool hall Tables & Ale closes on Block Avenue.

The bar, opened in the mid-90s by longtime proprietor Bobby Craft and family, is set to permanently close its doors on Tuesday, Dec. 20 (as long as the beer supply holds up).

“I’ve already moved most of everything out,” Craft said in an interview conducted and sent over to us by his daughter, Caitlin. “All we pretty much have left is memories and they are going to be some great ones.”

Craft officially opened the doors of the establishment in 1995, he said, when his father Bill acquired the building from longtime local banker, Hayden McIlroy.

“I was working my dry cleaning business at the time (Okay & Milady) next door and I had an opportunity to do something with the building and I decided to open a pool hall,” he said.

The establishment quickly took hold, and found favor with a handful of regulars who gave it an “everybody knows your name” vibe and reputation.

“It was more locals-oriented than college-oriented and it just turned into be like a little Cheers,” Craft said. “All the customer base knew each other and what they did and it was just one big family that seemed to get along”.

Remarkably, that description has held true through the years. The bar, even now, feels like a last vestige of a “Block Street” that for better or worse is growing, and changing, in a city that is doing the same. It is one of the few places left in Fayetteville that still feels like the city I remember as a kid, earthy and smoky, and filled with characters. With cheap pitchers and occasional $1 beers.

Bobby said he has noticed the changes, too.

“Well now I see so much more retail versus entertainment,” he said. “You walk up the street and you see clothes staring at you through the window.”

People are a little different now, too.

“I don’t know if people like to play pool as much anymore,” he told me recently.

Tables & Ale had some shining moments over the years. During Block Street Block Party in the mid-2010s, the outdoor stage at the bar was central to the action on the jam-packed street. Bobby said he loved having input for the music on the Tables stage.

“I always started with Leah and the Mojo Doctors she was always so awesome and I really appreciate everything thing she’s done,” Craft said. “Also Isaiah Warford, Arkansauce, Matt Brooks, 1 Oz. Jig and really all the local musicians have always been so supportive. It was such a great event and I know Fayetteville misses it and we miss it.”

Those are just some of the memories. There are too many to count.

“I have a thousand little moments from this place that make up my favorite memories in my life because of this bar and the people that came here to be a part of this place,” Craft said. “I’ve always walked into the bar and felt like everybody in there was my family. My dad did something really special here. With this building he created a business, but also provided a place for memories to be created  and shared with his community. For so many people – myself included – it was a place I knew was always there no matter what and it just felt like a little oasis from the rest of the world.”

The property at 102 N. Block Ave. where Tables is located sold in July for $925,000, and Bobby said he isn’t sure what will happen next. He’s not sure what’s next for himself, either.

“It’s still up in the cloud,” he said. “For my customers, boy I’m going to miss y’all so much. I appreciate every dollar you spent at Tables, and the memories that were made one dollar beer at a time.”