Famous local dive bar goes up in flames taking a century of memories with it
A century of good times went up in smoke early Wednesday morning when a fire reduced Hank Dietle’s Tavern, a longtime Rockville Pike landmark, to ashes.
Montgomery County Fire and Rescue Service spokesperson Pete Piringer called the damage the fire inflicted on the century-old wooden building – which has served as a local watering hole since 1916 – “almost a total loss” and said the fire was likely accidental, and was probably caused by smoking materials that were left on the tavern’s wooden porch.
“When fire crews arrived, there were some pretty heavy fire conditions throughout the structure,” Piringer said.
At about 2:45 a.m. firefighters responded to reports of a fire at the tavern’s location on 11010 Rockville Pike, where they encountered heavy enough smoke and fire that they called reinforcements to the scene. In total, the fire required the efforts of 65 firefighters to extinguish it. Piringer said no one was injured or killed in the fire.
“They made some pretty quick work of it – they were able to knock it down in 15 minutes or so,” Piringer said, adding that the total cost of the damage was up to $500,000 – $400,000 from the building and $100,000 from the contents.
Hank Dietle’s became Montgomery County’s first ever alcohol licensee when it opened as a general store in 1916. Owners converted the general store to a bar in the 1950s, after which it served as a casual local establishment for beer and live music.
The bar’s loyal patrons took to Facebook early Wednesday to express condolences for the tavern to its owners.
Throughout the 1960s and 70s served as a rough and tumble dive bar, home to locals and regulars who came to for pint or to listen to local rock bands.
According to the bar’s website, Hank Dietle’s orginal bar was destroyed by a fire in the 1940s and the then owner travelled up to Baltimore to purchase a new one. The general store was then changed into a tavern sometime in the 1950s.
That’s how longtime Hank Dietle’s regular Tony Huniak knew the bar when he bought it in the 1990s. Huniak, a resident of Kensington, bought the bar in order to save his favorite establishment from closing down.
“There is no place like Dietle’s,” wrote Facebook user Carla Ann in a Facebook post.
“I spent a decent chunk of my life at that place, probably more than any other place except home, come to think of it,” wrote John-David Whitney.
Many messages were directed to owner Tony Huniak, who purchased the bar in the 1990s after being a patron since 1970s. Over the years Huniak became a personal friend of many of the bar’s regulars as the bar became a refuge for those seeking an old local establishment in the backdrop of increasing new highend bars along Rockville Pike. As the area around Hank Dietle’s changed – including the name of area which was and is often referred to as Rockville and now is often called North Bethesda interchangeably – the tavern stayed the same offering the same three drinks; beer, wine and water.
The décor of the bar remained classic, a juke box, classic beer electronic sign, pool tables and small space for a local band to jam.
“My sadness is equal to my love for the place and the people,” Whitney wrote. “I will never forget Dietle’s.”