GOP Ought to Tune Into D.C. Neighborhood Bar

Over the years I have wanted to share this bit with you to tell you about my favorite bar in D.C. proper. Mr. Kelso hasn’t responded, so I took pictures of the article and re-typed it myself. Enjoy.

GOP Ought to Tune Into D.C. Neighborhood Bar

John Kelso — Mr. Kelso goes to Washington

Austin American-Statesman Tuesday, January 9, 2001

WASHINGTON– As the newly appointed head of the George W. Bush Funky Neighborhood Bar Transition and Search Team, I’d like to report a significant find.

It’s the Tune Inn, at 331 ½ Pennsylvania Ave., S.E., about three blocks from the U.S. Capitol and the only bar I’ve ever been to that has stuffed deer butts — not deer heads, but deer butts — hanging on the walls above the doors to the men’s and women’s bathrooms.

And you thought our nation’s capital was stuffy. If you’re headed here for the Inauguration on Jan. 20 and if you’ve ever used an Igloo cooler for luggage on an airline flight, you need to know about this joint. It’s the kind of place that makes you want to holler “Waco, eat your heart out.”

“This is kind of a down-home place,” said Tony Nardelli, the owner, who says the Tune Inn location was the first of five bars in Washington to get a liquor license after prohibition ended in 1934, and is the oldest bar on Capitol hill. “There’s nothing fancy about it. There are no ferns on the walls. It’s just a neighborhood bar with no neighborhood. Because the neighborhood is constantly changing.”

Tony is glad the neighborhood is constantly changing because the Clinton administration did little business at The Tune Inn. You can get a greasy bacon double cheeseburger in here for $6.25, but apparently Bill Clinton was always too busy jogging to McDonald’s.”

“I’m anxious for the Republicans to come in,” Tony said. “We’ve always had a good business when the Republicans come in.”

But Clinton never did. “We never attracted anybody from his crowd or his staff,” Tony said. “Different kind of folk. I just can’t visualise his wife coming in here, that’s for sure.”

I can, and she’d give them a tongue lashing for the sign on the wall that says, “Men. No short, no service. Women. No shirt, free drinks.”

The Tune Inn opens at 8 in the morning and stays open until 2 in the morning, except on Fridays and Saturdays, when it stays open till 3 in the morning. The clientele is unpretentious. Monday morning, a vehicle drove by outside, sounding its siren. “Let’s get out the back door; it’s the FBI,” said a guy sitting at the bar.

Maybe it was all of those falling apart ancient animal mounts that cover the walls that kept the Clintonites away. A bear’s head is wearing a paper crown with plastic jewels. You’ve got wild hog, duck, squirrel and fish up there. The bobcat mounts are in such disrepair that they look like the neighbor’s cat after a driving rain.

Many of these mounts have been up for so long that they would have died long ago from natural causes. Tony says many of them are here because his father, Joe, who bought the place in 1960, was an avid hunter.

“What they’re doing is losing feathers and eyeballs, and we’re trying to replace them as they go,” Tony said. “In fact, one deer lost an eyeball. The last time we dusted it, an eyeball fell off. So we can’t dust that often.”

A bumper sticker on the wall says, “I’ve Fallen and I Can’t Reach My Beer.”

Maybe the Clinton team was uncomfortable with the sign on the wall that states the place’s economic police, one that seems more suited to a Republican administration, compassionate or otherwise, “Helen Waite is our credit manager. If you want credit, go to Helen Waite.”

This is not to say the place doesn’t attract any Democrats. “Janet Reno comes in here all the time,” Nardelli said. “This is her favorite place to get a burger. She was just in two weeks ago.”

Maybe it was those gnarly waitresses the place used to have that didn’t suit the left wing. Nowadays, Tony Nardelli’s daughter, Lisa, manages the place, and she’s pleasant enough to appease the most politically correct tree-huggin’ liberal. But this was not always so. The Tune Inn used to have the meanest waitresses this side of Sarah out of the Dry Creek Cafe, on Mount Bonnell Road in Austin.

“My favorite was the one who, if you asked for a class of water, would ask, ‘What do you want to do? Take a bath?’” Said Carlton Carl, a Tune Inn regular who works for the Association of Trial Lawyers of America. “But she died.”

She would be Geneva Suggs, “She was always screaming,” Lisa said. “And everybody loved it.”

“And if somebody was reading the newspaper, she’d say, ‘What do you think this is? The public library?’” Tony Nardelli recalled.

“And if somebody wanted some matches she’d say, ‘Did you buy the cigarettes here? No? Then you don’t get the matches.’ Oh, she was evil.”

Evil enough to suit the toughest GOPer, no doubt.

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