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Best New Room - No. 4: Buster's Billiards & Backroom (Lexington, Ky.)

Story by Nicholas Leider

WHEN THE building that housed the original Buster's Billiards was slated for demolition in the summer of 2008, longtime patrons Jessica and Clark Case decided they had to do something about it. So, they bought the place, relocated it to an old bourbon distillery warehouse and added a live music venue.

What else would you expect?

The thing about Buster's Billiards & Backroom ("Backroom" being added with the official stage setup) is that it was - and still is - not what you'd expect when you think of your normal poolhall. Right on Main Street in Lexington, Ky., the original Buster's served as a place to kill time after classes at the University of Kentucky, where you could drink some cheap beers, play a game of pool and jam the jukebox full of quarters.

"There was this jukebox filled with punk and the Cure and just all these bands that you'd never hear their music played over the speakers at any other bar in town," Jessica Case said.

But with the old Buster's a casualty of a downtown revitalization effort, the Cases needed a new home. What they found was the Old Tarr Distillery, a warehouse built in the 1860s used to store bourbon.

"We were just going to relocate it as a poolhall," Case said. "But then this opportunity came up - the newly forming Lexington Distillery District, which is an awesome development. So we were like, 'Why not extend this and put some live music in the back?'"

So in addition to the six-table poolhall up front, the Cases added a 7,000-square-foot venue in back. While serious music might take precedence over serious pool, the tables are an integral part of the space - not to mention a link to the old Buster's location.

"We used the same Olhausen tables from at the old Buster's," Case said. "They weren't level and the cloth was pretty worn, so we had them cleaned up, got new pockets on them and now they look pretty." While Case might not be the typical player-turned-poolhall owner, she's planning on sharpening up her game.

"I promised myself that at one point, when things calm down, I'm going to take some lessons," she said.

But really, with Lexington's first live music poolhall attracting some attention, the hope is that things never calm down - and Buster's keeps the tables full and the backroom rocking.

Best New Room - No. 5: Cue Stick Café (Marysville, Ohio)

Story by George Fels

MARYSVILLE, OHIO, is 17 miles from the state capitol of Columbus. But it's home to Honda of America, Scotts Miracle-Gro, and a research and development center for Nestle's, and is heavily dependent on those corporations for its economy. So when things slowed down a tad this summer for the new, $800,000 Cue Stick Café, owner Richard Dawson felt a modest twinge in his gut. After all, he had waited throughout a 28-year career in pharmaceuticals distribution to run his own room.

But not to worry; the Café is rebounding just fine. It burst out of its starting blocks in September of 2008 and had a joyous first seven months before the mild summer slump. The room boasts a magnificent positioning line of "The Country Club of Billiards," and it's not hard to see why. Beyond its eight Diamond tables (two full-size, six 7-footers), the Café offers a full bar with draft, craft and bottled beers and liquors, and a full menu with appetizers, chicken wings, pizza, Chicago-style hot dogs and burgers, plus about 10 other sandwiches all named for billiards. Customers can enjoy shuffleboard or darts in addition to pool, or watch their favorite sports on any one of multiple flat-screen TVs throughout the room. If you got an itch to play the numbers, keno is available, or you can plan your visit for a night when the Café is hosting live music. There's a covered, heated patio to the rear (with seating for 70), plus on-site parking for 55 vehicles and even 12 designated motorcycle sites.

While Columbus has several commercial billiard rooms, Marysville has only bars with pool tables, so Richard and his wife, Bonnie, pretty much have the only game in town. Their room definitely caters to intermediate players and above, in addition to the recreational set. Former Derby City bank-pool champ Dee Adkins is a regular, and just one of several very talented players. The Café is host to both APA and BCA leagues plus a regular Saturday double-elimination tournament, and hopes to add a house pro soon.

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