Union Jack’s will host its last dance party this weekend, wrapping up a nearly 11-year run for a concept that spawned three other British-themed restaurants in the state.
For co-founder and owner Johnny “Nitro” Natoli, the closing of his first restaurant is “bittersweet.”
“All great things come to an end,” Natoli said in a phone interview Tuesday. “Everything has its time. I think we rode the wave like rock stars, we had a great time. I think we definitely made more friends than enemies.”
Natoli would not say why the St. Elmo Avenue restaurant was closing after its Sunday service, only that it was “a decision” he made. He said the other three Union Jack’s locations in Gaithersburg, Columbia and Annapolis are “doing great.”
He thanked the community for its success and also the staff, which he described as “nothing but spectacular.” He said he didn’t know what would happen to current staff members after the restaurant closed this weekend.
Natoli says he started the restaurant in 2005 after bartending for about 12 years. Before that he was a drummer in a rock band, where he picked up the nickname Nitro. He grew up in Potomac and graduated from Winston Churchill High School. He said his local roots helped the restaurant become a success.
“It’s been really cool to watch Bethesda develop, it’s like home to me,” Natoli said. He added that his Churchill connections helped bring high school reunions to the restaurant, starting with one for former Churchill students and then expanding to events for other area high schools.
Fans of Union Jack’s reflected fondly on their memories at the bar on its Facebook page, where the restaurant announced the closing Monday. Many remembered dancing at the bar and especially the “Bethesda Bopper”–an older man who broke it down frequently on the bar’s dance floor and who spawned his own Facebook page.
Others said they met their significant others at the bar. “My husband and I met at [Union Jack’s] Bethesda waaay back in 2005,” Adrienne Lo wrote on the Facebook post. “We are now expecting a baby. We will always have fond memories of your bar… thank you!”
As for whether Natoli’s considering opening another restaurant in the area, he wouldn’t say.
“I’ve been very appreciative having a business here—it’s my hometown, my old stomping grounds,” Natoli said.