WASHINGTON -- A grease fire Wednesday morning at the Tune Inn, a legendary Capitol Hill bar, has severely damaged the restaurant’s kitchen but spared the dining area and bar, according to owner Lisa Nardelli.
Nardelli told The Huffington Post that she hopes to reopen the beloved dive bar within a month, and that she plans to pay all her employees their full wages while repairs are underway.
“Our goal is to get it open as soon as possible, for the community,” Nardelli said. In the meantime, a fundraiser to benefit a sick friend, originally scheduled for this week, has been postponed, according to the restaurant's Facebook page.
Police estimated that property damages from the fire, which they ruled accidental, were likely to total around $75,000. There were no injuries reported.
Nardelli said that a patron called 911 after noticing smoke coming from the kitchen just before 7 a.m. Two employees were on site at the time, and they closed the entry to the kitchen in an attempt to contain the flames. Video footage from a nearby security camera, obtained by The Huffington Post, reveals that firefighters arrived at 7:05, less than three minutes after the smoke began visibly streaming out of the building.
"We got there and there was heavy smoke coming from the kitchen area," said Pete Pringer, the chief spokesperson and interim director of public information for the District of Columbia Fire and EMS Department. "The fire appeared to extend along the duct work along the roof area. There was smoke in the adjoining businesses. It took about 10 or 15 minutes to contain the fire."
According to the video footage, firefighters entered the rear of the building through a cellar door and a back door. The front bay window was also deliberately smashed to allow for smoke ventilation, according to employees who were present. Firefighters appeared to turn off their hoses at approximately 7:30 a.m.
But the smell of burning plastic continued to waft along the busy 300 block of Pennsylvania Ave., SE more than four hours after the fire had been extinguished. What was left of the building’s large bay window lay in a mangled pile of glass on the sidewalk, which a waitress in blue jeans quietly began to clean up.
Throughout the morning, the roped-off scene was bustling with scores of curious pedestrians, reporters, and neighborhood business-owners. Everyone, it seemed, wanted to know what they could do to help.
Part of the charm of the Tune Inn is its history: Nardelli is a third-generation owner of the landmark hole-in-the-wall. Her grandfather opened it in 1947, and her father ran it for many years. Their eclectic collections still adorn the walls.
“I’m so grateful that none of my grandfather’s memorabilia was destroyed,” Nardelli said, gesturing towards a wall covered in trophy bucks, vintage ads, and festive photos of patrons. “But there’s some smoke damage, so we’ll have to deal with that.”
In addition to her duties as the bar’s owner, Nardelli, 37, is mother to three young children with her husband Thomas, a Homicide Detective in the D.C. Metropolitan Police.
Ryan Grim contributed reporting.