Rockville’s oldest bar, Hank Dietle’s Tavern, destroyed by morning fire

The devastating effects of the early morning fire that broke out Feb. 14 (Courtesy Montgomery County Fire and Rescue)
An early morning fire destroyed Rockville, Maryland’s oldest bar, Hank Dietle’s. (Courtesy Montgomery County Fire and Rescue)

Video courtesy Montgomery County Fire & Rescue service PIO Pete Piringer’s Twitter feed. (Courtesy Montgomery County Fire and Rescue)
Montgomery County Fire and Rescue spokesman Pete Piringer tweeted that "smoking materials" on the front porch were to blame. (Courtesy Courtesy Montgomery County Fire and Rescue)
Montgomery County Fire and Rescue spokesman Pete Piringer tweeted that “smoking materials” on the front porch were to blame. (Courtesy Courtesy Montgomery County Fire and Rescue)

Firefighters responded around 3 a.m. Hank Dietle’s opened in the 1950s. (Courtesy Courtesy Montgomery County Fire and Rescue)
Firefighters responded around 3 a.m. Hank Dietle’s opened in the 1950s. (Courtesy Courtesy Montgomery County Fire and Rescue)

The fire closed part of Rockville Pike between Edson Lane and Flanders Avenue Wednesday morning. (Courtesy Montgomery County Fire and Rescue)
The fire closed part of Rockville Pike between Edson Lane and Flanders Avenue Wednesday morning. (Courtesy Montgomery County Fire and Rescue)

Responding firefighters encountered heavy flames, but managed to get the scene under control. (WTOP/Kyle Cooper)
Responding firefighters encountered heavy flames, but managed to get the scene under control. (WTOP/Kyle Cooper)

Montgomery County Fire and Rescue spokesman Pete Piringer said there was significant damage to the building but no injuries were reported. (WTOP/Kyle Cooper)
Montgomery County Fire and Rescue spokesman Pete Piringer said there was significant damage to the building but no injuries were reported. (WTOP/Kyle Cooper)

The structure where the bar was located was built in 1916 as a general store with two gas pumps out front. (WTOP/Kyle Cooper)
The structure where the bar was located was built in 1916 as a general store with two gas pumps out front. (WTOP/Kyle Cooper)

The battle against the blaze closed a section of Rockville Pike between Edson Lane and Flanders Avenue for several hours. (WTOP/Kyle Cooper)
The battle against the blaze closed a section of Rockville Pike between Edson Lane and Flanders Avenue for several hours. (WTOP/Kyle Cooper)

(WTOP/Kyle Cooper)
(WTOP/Kyle Cooper)
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The house that Hank Dietle’s regulars considered a second home for years was once a country store and gas station. (Courtesy Hank Dietle’s Tavern)

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A younger John Hovde poses behind the bar with owner Hank Dietle for an article on the bar in the 1980s. (Courtesy Hank Dietle’s Tavern)

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Hovde believes this is Ed Offut who was the first owner of the building that is now Hank Dietle’s in the 1930s. (Courtesy Hank Dietle’s Tavern)

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The devastating effects of the early morning fire that broke out Feb. 14 (Courtesy Montgomery County Fire and Rescue)
Montgomery County Fire and Rescue spokesman Pete Piringer tweeted that "smoking materials" on the front porch were to blame. (Courtesy Courtesy Montgomery County Fire and Rescue)
Firefighters responded around 3 a.m. Hank Dietle’s opened in the 1950s. (Courtesy Courtesy Montgomery County Fire and Rescue)
The fire closed part of Rockville Pike between Edson Lane and Flanders Avenue Wednesday morning. (Courtesy Montgomery County Fire and Rescue)
Responding firefighters encountered heavy flames, but managed to get the scene under control. (WTOP/Kyle Cooper)
Montgomery County Fire and Rescue spokesman Pete Piringer said there was significant damage to the building but no injuries were reported. (WTOP/Kyle Cooper)
The structure where the bar was located was built in 1916 as a general store with two gas pumps out front. (WTOP/Kyle Cooper)
The battle against the blaze closed a section of Rockville Pike between Edson Lane and Flanders Avenue for several hours. (WTOP/Kyle Cooper)
photo-2.jpg
photo-1.jpg
store.jpg

UPDATE: A few purported crowdfunding campaigns to help rebuild Hank Dietle’s and provide for the people who have lost have been started online; the official one, however, is here. More than $1,800 was raised in the first hour.

WASHINGTON — Rockville, Maryland’s oldest bar was destroyed by fire early Wednesday morning.

Montgomery County Fire arrived at Hank Dietle’s Tavern on Rockville Pike around 3 a.m.

They encountered heavy flames, but managed to get the scene under control.

The battle against the blaze closed a section of Rockville Pike between Edson Lane and Flanders Avenue for several hours.

Bar owner Tony Huniak said he was “sick to his stomach” when he heard about the fire.

He said fire officials told him a carelessly discarded cigarette may have started the fire.

Huniak doesn’t know what the next steps are.

“I just need time to take it all in,” he said.



Julie Fainberg lives in the area and said the bar was known for being a “great place to go and meet friends, cheap beer, you know good good, nice street food, and it was a good time.”

Joe Birch has been a part of Hank Dietle’s for over 20 years. “It was just a little bit of a shock, you know?”

“It’s sad but you know, I’m a carpenter so I know it can be remade,” he said.

Montgomery County Fire and Rescue spokesman Pete Piringer said there was significant damage to the building but no injuries were reported.

He put damage estimates around $500,000 — $400,000 for the structure and $100,000 for what was inside.

The structure where the bar was located was built in 1916 as a general store with two gas pumps out front.

Hank Dietle’s Tavern opened in the 1950s.

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 came in to reminisce about their fathers taking them to Dietle’s to hear a song on the juke box, said 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,” said 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.

Below is a map of where the fire took place.

WTOP’s Megan Cloherty, Kyle Cooper and Anna Isaacs contributed to this report.

Will Vitka

William Vitka is a Digital Editor and reporter for WTOP.com. He's been in the news industry for over a decade. Before joining WTOP, he worked for CBS News, Stuff Magazine, The New York Post and wrote a variety of books—about a dozen of them, with more to come.

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