2019 | Business

New Movement To Revive Hank Dietle’s Arises from Ashes

Previous effort to bring back North Bethesda bar after 2018 fire had stalled

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Hank Dietle's

Hank Dietle's Tavern at 11010 Rockville Pike was destroyed in a 2018 fire. It now features a sign that reads "Save Hank Dietle's Tavern."

Charlie Wright

People interested in saving the former Hank Dietle’s Tavern in North Bethesda, which was destroyed in a February 2018 fire, have signed a 10-year lease on the property at 11010 Rockville Pike.

Thomas Bowes, who had booked bands for the restaurant, posted the news about the lease on Facebook Sept. 12 and said they are preparing to complete rehabilitation work.

“It could take us several months to get the space back to normal, and we will try to make it better in many ways,” he wrote. “Our focus will be to have a place where local and traveling roots bands can perform to really enthusiastic fans, and where younger audiences can get involved with all the great music of past generations.”

Bowes’ message also noted that rehabilitation work had been ongoing until “Tony vacated at the end of June.” It was unclear whether the name Tony referred to Tony Huniak, the owner of the bar.

Bowes also listed his wife Sarah Bonner, and Alan Kresse, a freelance photographer, as “partners.”

The day after Bowes’ left his message, he started a Facebook group called “Hank Dietle’s Tavern Rides Again,” which had 270 followers on Friday.

According to Maryland’s business filing database, Huniak is listed as the resident agent of Dietle’s Tavern L.L.C., which has the same address as the site of the former bar. The business is listed as “not in good standing.”

A separate business called “Hank Dietle’s LLC,” according to filing database, was created July 24 and is registered to Bowes. The address listed appears to be Bowes’ home address.

Hank Dietles Tavern opened in the 1950s, in what had been a general store and service station. The restaurant boasted that it held the first beer and wine license in Montgomery County, and was known for its pool table, live music and community atmosphere.

On Feb. 14, 2018, a fire broke out around 2:45 a.m. The fire was blamed on a lit cigarette thrown in a flower pot. Flames engulfed the restaurant and destroyed much of the structure.

Firefighters had the fire under control after about 15 minutes, with a crew of 75 responding to the scene. The fire caused about $500,000 in damage to the building.

A GoFundMe page set up to help with the recovery efforts has raised more than $19,000, but the last donation appears to have been made five months ago.

Huniak hoped to reopen a few months after the fire, but in December, Kiti Gardner, who used to manage music events at the bar, said $10,000 to $15,000 was needed just to complete the exterior.

“There’s just no money left,” Gartner told Bethesda Beat in December 2018. “I know people want to see us open, but very few people have showed up to help.”

Bowes could not be reached for comment last week , but Lisa White, responding on his behalf, wrote in an email that there is “a lot of work yet to be done, and the timeframe for that isn’t yet definite.”

Dan Schere can be reached at Daniel.schere@bethesdamagazine.com