By Dana Hantel
If you haven’t heard of the Metropolitan Billiard Parlor, prepare to learn about one of Morgantown’s hidden gems. The business born in 1924 — the year the Winter Olympics, Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade, and crossword puzzle books premiered — might be the longest-running establishment serving alcohol in Morgantown. Co-owner Chris Evans said, “it opened before Prohibition.”
Despite its long and storied history, many remain unaware of the pool hall at 371 High St.
“People have always thought of it as a dungeon” because of its basement location. “We like that people come out who didn’t know it was here because it’s kind of hidden,” Evans said.
He and co-owner Steve Dilettoso, both West Virginia natives and WVU alumni, came to the pool hall in the past and had a desire “to do something cool downtown.” They purchased the business late in 2019 and began planning to preserve the rich history of the Met, while making some updates.
They spent a month on improvements, cleaning up and adding a lounge, and tended to details like curating a better beer selection.
“There are always at least two local beers on tap, along with a good selection of West Virginia canned beers,” Evans said. “A lot of West Virginia brewers started canning more than they have in the past.”
They added a ladies room but kept a sign from the original bathroom that reads: “Men’s room is ladies room when door is closed.” While early pool halls were largely the domain of men, times have changed, and Evans promised, “Lots of ladies come down here.”
Also on display are the Met Rules, a list created by the owner before last. One rule is “Health food not found here.” But according to the current proprietors the most important rule, Rule No. 1, is this: “Enjoy yourself.”
Other historical elements remain, like the original 1920s marble steps. Seating includes theater seats taken out of the Metropolitan Theatre many years ago, and a big screen showing movies from the golden era of billiards. The tables are nearly a century old, many original to the space. Evans said that all are “1920s Brunswick Regina and Monarch tables.”
When asked what kind of players frequent the Met, Evans said, “Legends have come through here and played pool, and we still get some very serious players.” At the same time, “We want the amateur player or the person who doesn’t even care about pool to come have a drink. It’s a place to relax.”
One regular customer who enjoys relaxing at the Met is Bill Bonfili. He owned the business for 36 years before passing the baton to Evans and Dilettoso. After all those years of working in the business, he still enjoys the place and the game. Standing by the pool table, cue stick in hand, Bonfili said, “I like playing pool. It’s a good sport to learn.” For those with an emerging interest in the sport, he advised that the only way to develop skill is to “practice, practice, practice.”
Though Evans and Dilettoso opened for business a month before the shutdown, things are going well.
“Pool is a naturally socially distant activity, and our pool tables are six feet apart,” Evans said. Acknowledging that some folks may not be able to visit right now, he added, “Regardless of someone’s health or safety factors, there are ways to support the pool hall,” such as “merchandise, take-out beer or gift cards for a future visit.”
The owners are doing their part to support other small businesses via their Date Night deal: Present a meal receipt from a local Morgantown restaurant, and you’ll get one hour of free pool. And Sunday is Service Industry Night, with specials for food service workers.
The Metropolitan Billiard Parlor has changed hands just a few times in nearly 100 years, and that trend is likely to continue.
“I’m gonna be here at least another 15 or 20 years,” Evans said.
Stop by to play pool or simply enjoy yourself from 5-11 p.m. Sunday-Thursday, 5 p.m.-midnight Friday and noon-midnight Saturday.