Capitol Lounge Owner Aims to Reopen Friday Following Fire

Posted August 8, 2007 at 12:03pm

A fire broke out behind Capitol Lounge early this morning, causing about $100,000 worth of damage to the popular Capitol Hill bar and the adjoining Trover Card Shop.

But Capitol Lounge fans may miss only one night of drinking.

“Beer will be poured tomorrow,” co-owner Adam Manson pledged on Wednesday, adding that the building will have to be inspected by the city before it can reopen.

Trover is less lucky: Owner Al Shuman said the card shop will be closed this week, at least. The nearby bookstore, however, was completely unharmed and is open for business.

About 120 firefighters responded to the call at 5:15 a.m. and put the fire out within the hour, said Fire and Emergency Medical Services spokesman Alan Etter. It started in the back of Capitol Lounge at 229 Pennsylvania Ave. SE, spreading to the wooden floorboards and then to Trover. No one was hurt.

Fire officials are investigating the cause, but Etter said there’s no indication that it was set deliberately. He added that the fire may have started under a tarp covering furniture behind the lounge.

It’s the second fire to strike Capitol Lounge in two years. The bar suffered major damage in the early hours of Aug. 24, 2005, when a discarded cigarette was blamed for a fire that closed the lounge for four months. This time, however, Manson said the fire destroyed only the back patio and some kitchen walls. The walls will be replaced immediately, he said, while the patio probably will have to wait a few months.

“This is nothing,” Manson said. “It’s probably one-twentieth of the damage” of the previous fire.

By 11 a.m., Shuman was surveying the Trover Card Shop and sweeping out ruined inventory. The smell of smoke indicated that there had been a fire, but both the lounge and Trover were intact. Shuman said he didn’t know when he would be able to open because of the fire, smoke and water damage that pervaded the shop. The D.C. Department of Consumer and Regulatory Affairs and the Health Department must inspect the lounge before it can reopen, Manson said.

And although the adjoining Sonoma Restaurant and Wine Bar was untouched, owner Eli Hengst said this second fire worried him. The 100-year-old buildings and close quarters mean fires can quickly spread down the block.

“It’s definitely a little troubling that this has happened twice in two years,” he said.