Fire Wipes Out Capitol Lounge

Posted August 24, 2005 at 12:27pm

The Capitol Lounge, a watering hole popular with Hill denizens, was ravaged by fire early this morning. Though no official explanation has been given for the cause of the fire, investigators suspect it was started by a cigarette thrown in a trash can.

“There was a fire at 6 a.m.,” according to Kathryn Friedman, public information director for the D.C. Fire Department. “It did go to two alarms, primarily because we were worried about extension. The building is a row house, so it’s truly adjoining.”

The fire was quickly contained, however, and none of the other buildings suffered major damage. The apartment located on top of the building was also largely undamaged. “The two occupants escaped via the fire escape,” Friedman said.

But the same cannot be said about the Capitol Lounge, located at 231 Pennsylvania Ave. SE. “There is significant, major, major damage to the bar,” Friedman said, adding that the fire department’s investigators “have no reason to suspect foul play.”

People passing by the bar confirmed the devastation and mourned the loss of their neighborhood pub. “It’s tragic,” said Kyle Downey, a press aide to Sen. John Thune (R-S.D.). “I’ve got ash on my hands.”

Another Republican press aide concurred, though he was hopeful the bar might be salvageable. “The windows are blown out, the wooden roof is badly damaged and all of the soccer scarves are gone, but much of the structure remains intact — so while it’s a depressing scene, there’s hope that the Lounge can recover soon. Hopefully, they won’t change it too much,” the aide said.

He went on to say that the Capitol Lounge was more than just a bar. “Whether it’s wing night, watching a baseball game or seeking refuge from hurricanes and snowstorms, the Lounge is always a place where one could walk in and see friends, even if you walked in alone.”

Aimee Steel, director of communications for Cassidy and Associates, agreed with that assessment, saying that “it was a place where you could go and you always knew you would see a friendly face. It was like a real life Cheers.”

“It was a constant,” she added. “As much as things changed, the Capitol Lounge was always there.”

The Capitol Lounge is owned by Joe Englert, who owns a number of other bars in the District, including the Pour House and recently opened Trusty’s. Efforts to reach him for comment were unsuccessful.