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Posted at 2:56 PM ET, 02/12/2007

The Pug Is Coming, and Nanny's Is Back

By Fritz Hahn

A decade of holding court behind the bar at Capitol Lounge has earned Tony Tomelden a very loyal following of Hill staffers, off-duty cops, soccer fans and neighborhood residents. For more than a year, Tomelden's been waiting to open his very own spot at 1234 H St. NE, a boxing-themed sports bar called the Pug with classic bouts playing on TVs and classic ska and punk on the jukebox. But permitting and construction delays have meant that good news has been in short supply.

So when Tomelden called on Friday morning to say that he was picking up his liquor license that day and would probably be open that night, I made plans to head over after work.

Unfortunately, there was a catch. (We're talking about D.C. bureaucracy - of course there was a catch.).

"My attorney picked up the license [Friday], but he didn't get out of there until 3:30," Tomelden explained when I called him Friday night. "You need to physically have the license before you can order liquor, so at that point, it was too late to have anything delivered. I'm going to be working at the [Capitol] Lounge on Monday night, so I'll just open the Pug on Tuesday."

You heard it here first.

One bar that is open and buzzing is Nanny O'Brien's, which, as I've reported before on this blog, is now under the control of the Bedrock bar chain. (They already own the neighborhood's Aroma Lounge and Atomic Billiards.) The lounge was recently closed for cleaning and repairs, so I went over there Friday night to see what had changed.

First impression: It was packed with the youngest and best-looking crowd I've ever seen at the pub, crowding around the bar and the rickety tables. There's no live music at the moment, so the jukebox was blasting U2, the Pogues and Bruce Springsteen.

Most importantly, the bar staff is friendly and quick-witted, and pints of Guinness and Smithwick's Ale taste as good as ever.

Nanny's still feels like an Irish hole in the wall, albeit one in transition. The decor isn't finished, and you can still see dark outlines on the wall where the previous owners have removed favorite signs, mementos and musical instruments. Unfortunately, despite promises by the new management, an odd, slightly sour smell still hangs over parts of the room and on Friday, both urinals in the men's room were busted and overflowing.

-- Fritz

By Fritz Hahn  | February 12, 2007; 2:56 PM ET
Categories:  Bars and Clubs  
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Hm. Does this mean that Brian Gaffney is no longer involved with Nanny's? Also, you say there's no live music -- does this mean that the weekly live session there is dead? Nanny's was the place to go to hear many of the area's best traditional Irish musicians -- the ones who are quite famous among Irish musicians in this country. If that session died and didn't move somewhere else, that's a more serious loss to live music in D.C. than most people will realize.

Posted by: Chris | February 13, 2007 1:12 AM | Report abuse

Brian Gaffney is no longer the owner of Nanny O'Brien's.

The new owners of Nanny's say they're committed to having live Irish music, including the Monday night session, but they want to get the bar up and running before they do that. I'm curious how it's going to work without Brian; after all, he was responsible for getting many of the musicians to stop in.

Posted by: Fritz | February 13, 2007 3:51 PM | Report abuse

I really hope they improve Nanny's, which has been a favorite of mine since I moved here years ago. Went there about a month ago and it was filthy (smelled like they had a problem in the bathroom) and was a generally dirty. I was so disappointed that I probably wouldn't have gone back, but hopefully the new ownership is addressing it.

Posted by: Arrrlington | February 15, 2007 2:15 PM | Report abuse

Session is alive and well. As of two weeks ago, backroom was not usable, and the toilets were worse, not better. But there is hope. Place is cleaner, and one can breath in the front room now that smoking is no more. Guiness was well poured as always. They've got the whole DC permitting process to go through, and I suspect they will be challenged to bring kitchen and bathrooms up to code...not much space to work with. Anyway good luck to them..I may go over tonight despite the bluster. I've been going there since it was Gallagher's, twenty years or more.

Posted by: Gene | March 5, 2007 7:58 PM | Report abuse

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