- The Washington Times - Wednesday, June 22, 2011

The Tune Inn, a venerable Capitol Hill watering hole where congressmen, their staffers, journalists and local residents have rubbed shoulders for more than six decades, was forced to close its doors for one of the only times in its history Wednesday after a small but potent morning fire ripped through its kitchen.

But owner Lisa Nardelli, whose family has owned the shotgun-sized tavern for three generations, vowed hours later to reopen the popular hangout “as soon as possible.”

“This is our first (insurance) claim in history,” said Ms. Nardelli while surveying the damage inside. “We’ve gotten a lot of well wishes. The community came alive with so much support.”

Near the front door, a silver balloon inscribed with “get well soon” lofted in the late afternoon breeze next to a bouquet of white carnations.

The fire started in a fryer in the kitchen about 7:15 a.m., when staff were preparing for the morning breakfast rush that typically begins when the tavern opens at 8. Firefighters arrived within about two minutes and extinguished the blaze in about 15 minutes.

While the fire was contained to the kitchen, the front of the establishment received “moderate” smoke and water damage, fire officials said.

No injuries were reported in the blaze, which fire officials say they believe was accidental. Total damage is estimated to be between $75,000 and $100,0000, said D.C. Fire and EMS spokesman Pete Piringer.
About 75 fire fighters responded to the blaze, he said.

Ms. Nardelli praised the firefighters for arriving so quickly and containing the damage.

“The firemen were actually disappointed because they wanted to come in here drinking after they got off of work,” she said.

Ms. Nardelli promised the Tune Inn’s iconic wall decor, which includes hunting and fishing trophies such as mounted deer heads, marlin and a deer’s backside above the men’s restroom, will remain.

“The cleaners came in here this morning and said, ‘look at all that smoke damage on the walls,’ but some of that is from 50 years of smoking in here,” she said with a laugh. “It had nothing to do with the fire.”

Ms. Nardelli said the tavern’s staff will stay on payroll during the renovations. And some in the community have offered to hold a fundraiser to help supplement their income, which will take a big hit without customer tips.

Ms. Nardelli’s grandfather, Joe Naradelli, opened the Tune Inn in 1947. Her father, Tony, later took over the tavern before she inherited the family business a few years ago.

The Tune Inn was featured last year on the Food Network program “Diners, Drive-ins and Dives.”