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Ten cent beers and hitching posts: The history of Hank Dietle’s Tavern

Megan Cloherty, wtop.com

ROCKVILLE, Md. – The initials of thousands of locals who have enjoyed a late night at Montgomery County’s oldest watering hole are still carved into its wooden booths. While the hitching post no longer stands outside Hank Dietle’s Tavern along Rockville Pike, the memories aren’t going anywhere.

Hank’s Montgomery County beer and wine license is No. 001. The Montgomery County Department of Liquor Control confirms Dietle’s holds the county’s first Class D, beer and wine, license and is the county’s first bar.

Customers still come in to reminisce about their fathers taking them to Dietle’s to hear a song on the juke box, says bartender Jenette Ford. Some even remember shopping with their grandmothers at the tavern’s home when it was surrounded by farm land.

“I had customers who actually would ride their horses over from River Road, and tie them out in front of the place and have a drink,” says John Hovde, who ran the tavern from 1971 to 1986.

Hovde’s father was a bartender at Dietle’s in the ’60s. After serving overseas in the Marine Corps, Hovde came back and looked for a job. After a few short weeks, he fell into his father’s footsteps when he became Dietle’s head bartender.

Learning the drink menu wasn’t very tough — Dietle’s still only serves beer and wine — but learning the history of the watering hole took years.

“Originally it was owned by Edward Offut,” says Hovde of the stand-alone house that Dietle’s calls home near White Flint Mall.

Offut lived next door, which is now Addie’s restaurant, Hovde says.

“He built this building, and it was a country store. Sometime, right prior, or right after the second World War, he sold it to a man named Freddie Salami. Freddie owned the place for many, many years up until Hank bought it. So basically, you only had three owners of this business since 1916,” Hovde says.

Tony Huniak owns it now. Huniak says he got a call on Dec. 31, 1997 from another Dietle’s regular telling him the bar was about to go under. The man asked Huniak if he was willing to help save it. He’s owned it ever since.

Huniak is modest about his efforts, but he’s cleaned the place up and made it welcoming to new customers, Hovde says.

“It was a little more cluttered. There used to be stuffed fish hanging on the wall because Hank was a great fisherman,” Hovde says.

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