The Capitol Hill building that houses the Tune Inn has been many different things over the last century. It was once a candy kitchen. In the 1920s, it was a speak easy. Not long after, it was a men’s tailor shop that catered to the gentlemen of the U.S. Congress. In 1947, though, Joe Nardelli purchased the site, turned it into a tavern, and gave it the name that has stuck to this day. Today, it holds the distinction of being the second oldest liquor license in the nation’s capital since the repeal of Prohibition. Currently, Joe’s granddaughter, Lisa Nardelli, is the Tune Inn’s owner and operator.
Being a family-owned and operated business for more than 70 years is quite a feat and more than qualifies it for our ongoing series of historic bars and taverns in Maryland and Washington, D.C. What’s the secret to this popular and unpretentious bar’s success and longevity? General Manager Stephanie Hulbert was eager to respond. “People like consistency,” she said. “They like knowing that they’ll see the same faces. Many get served their favorite drink without having to even ask for it. The community and our regulars definitely make up the bar’s [core clientele]. Most of them have been coming for 20 to 30 years. Their support has been everything. It’s a cliché. But a lot of people who walk in for the first time or are from out of town immediately go to the ‘Cheers’ reference . . . ‘Where everybody knows your name.’ That’s exactly what makes it a great atmosphere.”