Dozens of people have asked, ‘Who is Barbara?’ while sipping their cocktails at the Oak Cliff dive bar Barbara’s Pavillion.
‘Who is Barbara?’ – the question that began almost 20 years ago
A bar opened in 1968 in a small strip center when purchased by Couch Realty on Centre Street in Oak Cliff, one block from the historic Texas Theatre. Known as The Pavillion Club, this bar with a private club permit, was described as a redneck, shuffle-board, dark bar for 30 years, until Barbara Brown entered. Barbara had worked for the Environmental Protection Agency for nearly 20 years when an injury from a bad spill in the stairwell ended her government career.
After recovering from surgery, she asked a friend if she could waitress at her hotel bar off I-175. While waiting tables, she asked a customer for her ID whose name was also Barbara Brown, well, Barbara Brown Stewart, to be exact. They became friends. Barbara Stewart owned three bars, and needed someone to manage her bars while she had to recover from a surgery of her own.
Barbara Brown fell in love with the bar business through those months as manager. When Stewart returned to take over her businesses, Barbara asked her to help her find a bar of her own.
The bar on Centre Street was then named Nita’s Pavillion Club, and Stewart knew Nita. Barbara bought the managing rights to the bar in 1998, reverted the bar name to The Pavillion Club, and welcomed people from the neighborhood.
Chris and Todd had moved to Winnetka Heights in Oak Cliff in 1997, and began visiting the nearby Pavillion Club. Todd shared decorative ideas, and Barbara became friends with the couple. By 2000, Chris and Todd became part management owners with Barbara and changed the name of the bar to Barbara’s Pavillion. A tribute to the fun and feisty woman who wanted the bar to be welcoming to all.
The present Barbara’s Pavillion
Within the first couple years of co-ownership, Barbara’s Pavillion added a window to the front of the bar and a patio to the back, and karaoke three times a week, giving the place a retro, tiki bar vibe. Todd remembers the Sunday afternoon karaoke and barbecues with all types of people from the community. By 2007, Dan became a bartender and still bartends today, keeping the neighborhood vibe.
In 2010 Barbara sold her share of the management, but the name remains the same. Every so often, Barbara stops in to visit during a reunion party or for a regular customer’s birthday.
Who is Barbara? On her birthday, Dec. 4, she will be a woman who has lived most of her 80 years in Dallas, and that is something to celebrate.
325 Centre St., Dallas, TX 75208