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The Daily Tar Heel

He's in D.C. — Tar Heel alums find game day experiences hours away

For some Tar Heel alumni living in Washington, D.C., there's always another Blue Cup. 

Buffalo Billiards and Ventnor Sports Cafe — two UNC-themed sports bars in the nation's capital — might not be located in the heart of Chapel Hill, but when the seats started filling with UNC alumni on game days, the owners noticed.

Scott Auslander, owner of Ventnor Sports Cafe, said though he had no connection to UNC when the bar opened in 2005, it has always been a UNC-themed place.

“It happened very organically,” Auslander said. “When we first opened, it was just a large group of recent alumni at the time who would come in to watch all the football games and all the basketball games.”

He said the graduates brought 20 of He’s Not Here’s signature Blue Cups to him first. Then he drove to Chapel Hill, sat outside of the bar himself and bought a whole case of the cups — and that was the beginning.

Jamie Walther, general manager of Buffalo Billiards, graduated from UNC in 1996 — inspiring him to reach out to the General Alumni Association, which sets up events and parties on big game days, and sells its own Blue Cups.

He said while UNC graduates make up most of the bar’s customers during basketball season, other fans hear about it from social media and come check it out.

“D.C. is obviously kind of a melting pot city with people coming in from all over," Walther said. "And as administrations change, we have different groups of people coming in from different places, so I would say it’s a solid mix."

Keren Tseytlin, who graduated from UNC in 2015, has gone to Buffalo Billiards for big UNC games.

“They bring in the blue cups, so it creates a very Carolina atmosphere,” Tseytlin said. “Just being able to hang out with my friends from UNC and being able to watch the game like old times and drink out of blue cups — it’s pretty fun.”

Auslander said his bar is populated with UNC customers even on smaller game days, which creates an opportunity for people to network — an advantage they have over larger bars.

“They might have 400 people instead of a hundred people, but you’re going to get a more intimate experience and sort of feel like you’re more a part of something if you come in here,” he said.

Walther said for Duke and NCAA tournament games, the 500-person capacity of Buffalo’s is about 90 percent full of UNC fans — and being a grad himself, getting to root loudly for his home team is his favorite part.

“Carolina people are very active and responsive, but they’re also very respectful of other people," he said. "There’s not a lot of screaming down on other teams, you know, so it’s just a good group of people, along with being a good fan base."

Auslander said he now considers himself a Tar Heel fan and keeps up with the scores — after all, the further the teams go, the better it is for business and the better it is for his customers.

“I’ve always really enjoyed having the Carolina people here,” he said. “Because we’re a small place, we don’t have a ton of big alumni groups, and they are definitely our main alumni group, and they sort of make our world go 'round a lot of the year.”

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