Hawk ‘n’ Dove closing its doors

Capitol Hill bar’s owner loses lease after 44 memorable years

Patrons eat out on the sidewalk patio of the Hawk 'n' Dove bar in Capitol Hill on Wednesday, Aug. 31, 2011. After more than 40 years in business, the bar, which has been an institution on Capitol Hill will be closing down Oct. 2. There will be a series of events and celebrations leading up to the closing, and all of the bar's contents will be auctioned off. Regular patrons told The Washington Times that they are saddened by the closing. Many consider it a home away from home where they gather with friends. (Barbara L. Salisbury/The Washington Times)Patrons eat out on the sidewalk patio of the Hawk ‘n’ Dove bar in Capitol Hill on Wednesday, Aug. 31, 2011. After more than 40 years in business, the bar, which has been an institution on Capitol Hill will be closing down Oct. 2. There will be a series of events and celebrations leading up to the closing, and all of the bar’s contents will be auctioned off. Regular patrons told The Washington Times that they are saddened by the closing. Many consider it a home away from home where they gather with friends. (Barbara L. Salisbury/The Washington Times)

Stuart Long didn’t want it to end this way.

For the past 44 years, he has owned and operated the Hawk ‘n’ Dove bar and restaurant, a Capitol Hill icon where congressmen and clerks, lawyers and foremen, college students and pensioners rub elbows daily while sipping beers and munching burgers.

“I built this place,” Mr. Long said. “I intended on being here 50 years, I thought that’d be a good time to go out.”

But when he learned this week that a rival Capitol Hill bar owner has taken over the building’s lease, forcing him to close Oct. 2, he was left with a mix of emotions - not the least was a deep sense of loss and disappointment.

“I got out of law school in ‘67 and this has been my only job,” said Mr. Long, who has been battling cancer. “This is where I start my day and finish it, for 44 years.”

Mr. Long wasn’t alone in his despondency, as the shock waves caused by the pending shutdown of “the Hawk” hit many on Capitol Hill harder than last week’s earthquake.

“It’s very sad,” said Phil Panitch, a Hawk regular since 1976. “It’s like family here, it’s more than just friends … great bartenders, great company, smart people, interesting people.”

The Hawk ‘n’ Dove opened in 1967 as a place where pro-Vietnam War “hawks” and anti-war “doves” - as well as Democrats and Republicans - could meet to drink and eat in peace.

Along with being a neighborhood bar, the Hawk ‘n’ Dove, situated in the shadow of Capitol Hill at 329 Pennsylvania Ave. SE, over the years has become a popular stop for tourists and celebrities. A scene for the TV show “The West Wing” was filmed here.

“It’s a living monument on Capitol Hill,” said James Forward, a Hawk patron for more than 30 years.

Local restaurant and bar owner Xavier Cervera will take over the building’s lease and is expected to close for several months during an extensive renovation before re-opening next year. He also has purchased the Hawk ‘n’ Dove name, Mr. Long said.

Mr. Cervera owns several bars and restaurants in the nearby Barracks Row district on Eighth Street, including Molly Malone’s, Lola’s and the Chesapeake Room.

Mr. Long, who has been operating without a long-term lease for the past two years, said he wasn’t shocked that time ran out on the Hawk.

“They just found somebody else willing to pay more, and I can’t afford to pay more,” he said.

“My father used to tell me it’s the five-letter words that get you in trouble, not the four-letter ones. And ‘greed’ and ‘money’ are two of them. But you know, it’s the American way, they have the right to get everything they want.”

The bar is a literal time capsule. Decades of cigarette smoke residue and old political campaign and sports bumper stickers cover the walls. Layers of dust also cover trophy animal heads affixed high on the walls.

But Betty Auman, who works down the street at the Library of Congress and lunches at the Hawk several times a week, said she fears its replacement won’t have the gritty ambiance that appeals to its legion of regulars.

“There are some things that shouldn’t be allowed to happen,” Ms. Auman said. “I don’t want new and shiny.”

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