D.c. Dives: Tune Inn Thrives After Nearly Devastating Fire (Transcript) | WAMU 88.5 - American University Radio

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D.C. Dives: Tune Inn Thrives After Nearly Devastating Fire

MS. REBECCA SHEIR

00:00:03
Time now for one of our favorite monthly segments, "D.C. Dives."

MR. JERAD WALKER

00:00:10
What is a dive bar?

UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN

00:00:11
The glorious dump.

UNIDENTIFIED MAN

00:00:12
It's got to have an interesting staff and an interesting crowd.

WOMAN

00:00:17
It's got to be dark, it's got to be old. Typically it's got to be cheap.

SHEIR

00:00:21
This time around we head to Capitol Hill where Jerad Walker takes us to an iconic bar that goes back decades.

WALKER

00:00:28
On the corner of Pennsylvania Avenue and 4th Street Southeast, just off Seward Square, sits the Tune Inn Restaurant and Bar. In many ways, this bar's history is a story about a family. Owner Lisa Nardelli's grandfather purchased the building in 1947.

MS. LISA NARDELLI

00:00:47
He was the first generation and he worked here his whole life. My father then worked here his whole life and I'm the third generation.

WALKER

00:00:55
Capitol Hill has changed significantly since Joe Nardelli set up shop. So it might surprise some to find a dive bar in an affluent neighborhood most famous for its marble-columned government buildings and picturesque row houses. But bar regular Don Kaniewski says Capitol Hill residents and the people who work here are no different from anyone else.

MR. DAN KANIEWSKI

00:01:17
This is a neighborhood establishment. This is the other Capitol Hill and this is a place where the community gathers. There's members of Congress, lobbyists, lawyers, certified auto mechanics. We all come here.

WALKER

00:01:31
This gathering place almost shuttered for good on June 22, 2011, when a kitchen fire caused widespread damage to the bar. Nardelli was faced with a painful decision.

NARDELLI

00:01:44
Everyone kept saying, why choose to rebuild at this point? So much of the character is gone. So much of the personality. You won't be able to get a lot of that history back.

WALKER

00:01:53
But to the delight of the community, she chose to rebuild and reopen. Bartender Matt Manley says he was surprised by the outpouring of support the bar received at the time.

MR. MATT MANLEY

00:02:05
I had no idea that so many people would turn out and have a fundraiser for the staff, you know, and really pitch in to help clean it up and empty it out when we were initially getting all the things out. And I never thought regulars would show up and help out, you know, at their neighborhood bar, but they did and I was flattered by all of it.

WALKER

00:02:24
With her renovations, Nardelli attempted to strike a balance between introducing new items and saving old ones, including the bar's oddball collection of taxidermy.

NARDELLI

00:02:35
We were able to restore everything that was on the walls. We painstakingly took down every single item. Every dead roadkill that was ever up on the wall we took down and we chemically treated and we put in a climate controlled environment for the course of the fire restoration.

WALKER

00:02:54
So let me get this straight, you chemically treated and climate controlled stored stuffed deer?

NARDELLI

00:03:00
Yes, lovingly, painstakingly, yes. I went to a taxidermist that does work with the Smithsonian and he's done such phenomenal work. They look better than they ever looked.

WALKER

00:03:17
I toured the bar's new digs with John "Solly" Solomon, a former neighborhood regular who now owns and operates Solly's Tavern on U Street.

MR. JOHN "SOLLY" SOLOMON

00:03:26
I can't believe this new tin ceiling. That's great, you know, a throwback there. There's wood paneling, the pleather booths. But none of them have rips in them, they fixed all of those. No duct tape over them. Plenty of dead animals and antlers on the wall. Tons of pictures of the bar from way back.

WALKER

00:03:46
Halfway through Solly notices something else that changed.

SOLOMON

00:03:50
The smoking ban because of the haze that used to be in here and the way that everything would yellow over time you don't have that anymore. It takes a lot longer for everything to look old.

WALKER

00:04:00
I asked Solly if that would be a problem for the Tune Inn.

SOLOMON

00:04:04
No, I think it's just accepted now. You know, you can replicate it by not dusting.

WALKER

00:04:09
And Tune Inn regular Don Kaniewski isn't worried about the bar either. He says it's only changed superficially.

KANIEWSKI

00:04:16
You know, the people never change. I mean they do but the same attitude prevails. It never pretends to be more than it is. Breakfast anytime, off the corner on the square, and no matter who you are, you're always welcome.

WALKER

00:04:33
I'm Jerad Walker.

SHEIR

00:04:37
Do you have a favorite dive bar you think we should visit for this series? If so, let us know. Our email address is metro@wamu.org or send us a tweet, our handle is @wamumetro.
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