Del Denby’s Tavern on Hertel Avenue has always been considered a lovable dive bar – a great place in the neighborhood to catch up with friends over a cheap beer. There’s even a yard in back where North Buffalo sports leagues meet up after games, to grill or simply kick back and relax.
Last summer I stopped in to have a beer at the bar, and ended up talking with tavern owner John Daly, who, along with his wife Ruthanne, was embarking on a project that would entail fixing up the interior and exterior of the building, which they owned.
At that time, there was a salon in the commercial space next door. From the street, both shop fronts looked pretty dumpy, and it was the Daly’s intention turn both commercial spaces around. I’m not sure that the couple knew exactly what they were in for.
Yesterday my wife and I were looking for a place to catch some sun and relax, around dinner time. I suggested heading over to Del Denby’s, a place that she had never been. She agreed, and we set off for North Buffalo. When we arrived at the tavern, John was outside orchestrating the replacement of the tavern’s facade. Luckily, aside from running a tavern, John is also an architect and owner of Trautman Associates. He has been involved with numerous other Hertel properties and North Buffalo businesses ventures over the last few years – too many to recount here today.
We soon learned that the salon next door had relocated into one of the Daly’s other buildings, and a real estate company called Buffalo City Living had moved in (complete with a new glass facade and interior renovation). As for Del Denby’s, once the front is reworked, there will be a sliding glass window that will open up to a street-side patio.
On the inside, we couldn’t get over the addition of a beautiful historic back bar, that we soon learned came from a Genesee Gateway building. The bar used to be inside the commercial space that the U.S. General Services Administration (passport office) now occupies. I remember seeing (and even writing about) the bar when developer Doug Swift gave me a tour. I always wondered what happened to that gorgeous bar… and here it sits, five years later.
“The old bar previously located in the ornate Werner Building and said to be purchased by a previous owner from a defunct Charlie Bubbles restaurant has been dismantled and moved to this portion of the complex. It could be used by a future tenant if a restaurant or bar operator is found for this space.” – WCP – Buffalo Rising article
John told me that former Bills QB Jim Kelly and a couple of partners once intended to use the bar for a western joint that they were planning to open. That never happened of course.
Years ago, John saw the bar and inquired about its availability. At the time, he was told that it wasn’t for sale. Then, he got a call a short time ago, saying that he could have the bar, but he needed to pick it up the next day. That’s how quickly the deal transpired. Landing the bar set in motion even more interior developments, which is now speeding up the process of turning Del Denby’s into a darn cool pub on Hertel Avenue.
Many of the tin ceiling tiles were removed, in order to restore the tin ceiling in the commercial space next door. Then, a sample ceiling tile was sent to a company in Brooklyn, in order to replicate it, which means that soon the tavern’s entire tin ceiling will be restored. The floor is also being worked on, along with a number of other tavern features (check out the front door that now looks like a British telephone box).
When the work is complete on Del Denby’s, North Buffalo will have another great tavern on its hands. For the dedicated patrons who loved the “divey” nature of this watering hole, there is still plenty of quirkiness to go around. There are cheap beers to be found, a bizarre game room, an outdoor pool table, and oddities that hang hither and thither – including freshly hung faux holiday garland that drapes along the top of the back bar.
It won’t be long before business as usual sets into Del Denby’s, which is what many of the old timers are expecting. At the same time, the ongoing fixes will certainly draw an additional bar crowd through the front door. I can only imagine that there are a number of people who have eyeballed the tavern and stayed clear, primarily due to the “broken” exterior appearance.
As with a number of other Hertel developments, a new day has arrived, bringing with it a family’s desire to inject refreshed spirit into an eccentric North Buffalo watering hole.
Del Denby’s Tavern | 1553 Hertel Avenue | Buffalo, NY | (716) 837-5360