Rockville’s Hank Dietle’s opens for the first time in over 3 years, serving up ‘cold beer’ and live music

A Montgomery County, Maryland, nightlife institution made a comeback on Friday night after burning down in 2018 and postponing its reopening due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Fans of one of the oldest bars in the area came out to dance to the songs of King Soul, a brass-heavy band that took the stage decked out in red suits.

Rockville’s oldest bar opened in 1916 and then closed for over three years after burning in an early-morning fire on Valentine’s Day 2018. The owner of the bar at the time, Tony Huniak, said he was “sick to his stomach” when heard about the fire.

At one point, when the bar’s iconic “Cold Beer” sign went up in late 2019, Huniak said he hoped to see bands playing in the spring of 2020.

Now, the sign is bright in the Rockville night and music will be heard coming through the doors as many nights as possible for the rest of the year, according to Sarah Bonner, one of the bar’s new owners.

A packed parking lot at Hank Dietle’s on Friday night for the reopening. (WTOP/Michelle Basch)

“Fantastic, we’re sold out,” she said on Friday night when asked how the reopening was going. “We plan to have live music as many nights a week as possible.”

Bonner and her partners took over the bar about two years ago and started working to renovate the building. “It’s been a real labor of love, and now we’re back.”

She said musicians and other community members worked to help the bar get back on its feet. The bar hopes to feature mostly area acts, but expects to bring in some musicians from out of town.

While the old bar featured mostly rockabilly music, the new version of Hank’s will have a wider range of music styles. Another new feature? In addition to the famous “cold beer,” the bar also will have food like sandwiches, salads and other snacks.

“But it’s still a pretty kind of folksy place,” she said. “We’re really happy.”

One patron, Erica Munske, of D.C., said she was excited to be back at the bar.

“It’s been a long time coming,” she said. “I’m thrilled to be a part of opening night.”

Munske said she helped hang insulation in the new structure and worked to clean up some vintage chairs “to get the chrome gleaming again. It was great to be a part helping to get it back on its feet.”

Munske said she had time to help because she lost her job during the pandemic.

For those who don’t know about Hank Dietle’s, here’s one piece of trivia: the bar has the first liquor license given out in Montgomery County.

“It’s the oldest continually working roadhouse in Montgomery County,” Munske said. “I love anything having to do with history around the area and I’m a big local music fan and supporter.”

Hank Dietle’s is across the from the old White Flint Mall at 11010 Rockville Pike.

WTOP’s Michelle Basch reported this story.

Dan Friedell

Dan Friedell is a digital writer for WTOP. He came to the D.C. area in 2007 to work as digital editor for USATODAY.com, and since then has worked for a number of local and national news organizations.

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