The owners of the Hank Dietle’s Tavern in North Bethesda say the once-popular bar could reopen by the end of the year — but they worry that followers might not come back quickly due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Dietle’s was destroyed by a fire in the early morning hours of Valentine’s Day 2018. Montgomery County Fire & Rescue officials said at the time that the fire was caused by a discarded cigarette that hadn’t been extinguished.
At the time of the fire, the bar was 102 years old and held the distinction of being the first establishment in the county to hold a beer and wine license.
In the years since the fire, there has been a movement to rebuild the bar. Thomas Bowes, a former band booker for the bar, along with his wife, Sarah Bonner, and photographer Alan Kresse, signed a 10-year-lease for the property at 11010 Rockville Pike in September 2019.
The owners hoped to have the bar open earlier this year, but the pandemic delayed the process, Bowes told Bethesda Beat on Wednesday.
Bowes said the owners had to reformat their plans for the bar and resubmit them to the county’s Department of Permitting Services since the staff is working from home during the pandemic, which contributed to the delays over the summer.
Bowes said that in the next couple of weeks, he expects new glass panels to be installed in the windows and the bathrooms to be finished. Then, the bar and kitchen areas will be built, he said.
“Then, we’ll go ahead and finish insulating the ceiling and drywall. And then, once we get done with that, we’ll start paneling the room,” he said.
Bowes said if all goes according to plan, Dietle’s will be open by December. But the timeline for how quickly the bar’s faithful return is uncertain as long as there are capacity limits during the pandemic, he said.
“I think they will [come back] under the right circumstances. I’m sure we’ll have to modify what we’ve done in the past with audiences,” Bowes said. “I’m thinking if we get open, we’re gonna give it our best shot.”
Lisa White, the bar’s promotion and talent buyer, wrote in an email to Bethesda Beat last week that the bar is on track to reopen by December, but “who knows what the COVID restrictions may be around that time.”
“I would hope that by November, we can have a better idea of when and how we will be able to reopen, but who knows. We look forward to being able to serve the community again as a gathering space, whenever that is possible,” she wrote.
Dan Schere can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org