New Porch Goes Up as Hank Dietle’s Tavern Reconstruction Continues

Volunteers and donations are backing effort to reopen Montgomery County’s oldest bar

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Work continues at Hank Dietle's Tavern on Thursday.

By Danielle E. Gaines

Hank Dietle’s Tavern will start to look like home again soon for those who love the iconic tavern on Rockville Pike.

Workers were installing the front porch—a popular perch at the roadside bar—this week.

Dietle’s was destroyed earlier this year by a fire started by a discarded cigarette on the porch, but in the nearly six months since the devastating blaze, community members, bar regulars and local companies have come together to help restore the bar on a shoestring budget.

Those involved with the tavern had hoped to be back up and running by the end of the summer. Now, a re-opening may be in the fall, said Kiti Gartner, who managed music events at Dietle’s and is helping with the reopening.

An unexpected delay in permitting and the logistical difficulties of organizing volunteers with specific skill sets have taken more time than originally expected, Gartner said.

But there’s no shortage of determination to rebuild.

“Every day, all the time, people are emailing. They absolutely love this little place,” Gartner said. “…And without them, we couldn’t be where we are.”

Fueled mostly by the proceeds of a March fundraiser, donations and pure grit, Dietle’s is being rebuilt just as it had been before the Feb. 14 fire.

The interior has been cleared, with the walls stripped away and treated. The smell of char that hung in the air after the fire has been replaced by that of sawdust.

Last month, new windows from TW Perry were installed. The next big project is completing new electrical work, Gartner said. Once the interior is complete, donors have promised to provide furniture and other finishing touches.

While much of the interior furniture was ruined, those involved in the reconstruction hope that the bar, which predates the building, can be restored.

The building was constructed in 1916 and first operated as a general store. The location opened as a tavern in the 1940s, according to the Hank Dietle’s website. In that decade, a fire destroyed the original bar counter so the owner at the time bought an antique bar in Baltimore as a replacement. After the most recent fire, the bar was pulled apart and put aside for repair.

On its website, Dietle’s suggests it’s a place for people who “complain the world is changing” too fast. “Dietle’s is pretty constant and has not changed its decor to keep up with the latest trends,” the website says. “It retains its comfortable atmosphere and is a great place to meet friends and make new ones from all walks of life.”

The tavern boasts that it was granted the first post-prohibition beer and wine license in the county, No. 001.

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