A Bit More Info on CommonWealth’s Replacement in Columbia Heights

Yesterday we learned that CommonWealth in Columbia Heights (1400 Irving St, NW) would be closing at the end of the month. At the time I said the space would be closed for 60 days for some renovations. And commenter Michael (from Pete’s next door) wrote:

“The gastropub is going to close for 60 days, and the operator of the Lou’s is going to take over the pub, put down hardwood floors, remove the “private dining room” that bisected the old CommonWealth, expand the bar, mainstream the menu (still pub food though).

As for Jamie Leeds, she’s done well at CommonWealth but is taking the resources from the sale of the business and investing into the building next door to Hank’s.”

On Wed. afternoon I spoke with Terry Cullen who in addition to running the nearby new sports bar Lou’s City Bar, will also be running the new venture that goes into the CommonWealth space. If all goes according to plan the space will reopen with a new name in early May. Cullen did confirm that Jaime Leeds will be concentrating on the Hank’s expansion in Dupont but will also consult a bit with Terry on the new space. As Michael noted yesterday the changes will not be drastic. Cullen said the pub will be a bit more Irish than English and will have an expanded bar area.

So in the end the space will be a warmer more open environment but won’t be terribly different from the CommonWealth gastropub feel.

51 Comment

  • Isn’t there enough “pub” food in this area? I’d much prefer a real restaurant, serving interesting food for adults. I love the energy in Columbia Heights, but it seems to be sinking to the level of Route 1 in College Park.

    • as much as i love bars, i agree wholeheartedly. a decent restaurant in columbia heights (especially one with that kind of outdoor seating) would be a big plus. bummer that he didn’t just re-open the place as Hank’s North.

  • Don’t we have enough Irish pubs in this town? A couple of them are even quite decent. But what we’re lacking is a really good English pub. The two Elephant & Castle locations don’t count.

  • I’m bracing myself for yet another crappy Irish bar while hoping for the best.

    • Same. I can think of one place in DC that claims to be “an Irish pub” that actually feels it, and it is not Fado. They don’t count.

      • 4Ps/Four Courts (can never remember which is the current name) in Cleveland Park has a mostly legit Irish bar vibe.

        That said, you need to adjust your expectations…nothing in this town is going to live up to Boston/NYC/Philly/Chicago Irish bars b/c there hasn’t been a substantial number of blue-collar Irish (or other Caucasians) in >60 years!

  • Yes! So glad they’ll be leaning more Irish. And no, we really don’t have enough Irish pubs in DC.

  • Any news on the planned restaurent at View 14?

  • Wait wait wait. Am I the only one thoroughly confused here. Doesn’t it sound like this guy is opening up basically two of the same restaurant/bar on the same block in the same building right next door to each other? OK, so one will have a little more of an Irish flair and the other one will be more sports bar oriented, but what is the real difference? Most American Irish pubs have tv’s for sports. The food isn’t that different (unless they go authentically Irish, which I am doubting since he said it will be “leaning Irish”). It sounds like an upscale Duffy’s next door to an upscale Duffy’s. I mean, since the same guy is doing both, I’m hoping he will be able to contrast them enough to make this make sense, but based on the limited info we have now it doesn’t make sense to me.

    • I am also curious to see how they handle that aspect.

    • +1

      I’m also confused about the business plan for this!

    • I assume the dude knows what he’s doing. He either thinks there’s a big need for similar barfare in CH (think Comfort One in Dupont, the jumbo slices in Adams Morgan), or he’ll make each bar different enough. A bar that plays lots of games with the volume up is very different from a similar bar that doesn’t. You’ll get different crowds at each. Hopefully the menus are somewhat different!

      “Upscale Duffy’s”. Love it. Reminds me of Ben’s vs. Ben’s Next Door. Someone totally has to open “Upscale Duffy’s” next to Duffy’s.

  • That’s a shame. I thought Commonwealth hit the right spot for top notch pub food. And drink.

  • Yes to everything in this comment. It seems as if he will be competing against himself with 2 variations on a very bland concept.

    When I saw yesterday that Commonwealth was closing, I was hopeful that that would open up an opportunity for an entrepreneur with a good business plan and the skills to execute it to come in and start a new, high-quality restaurant or bar in this prime spot. While I will def check both of these places out I have to say my expectations are not that high.

  • Still waiting on Red Lobster or Olive Garden to complement the IHOP, Ruby Tuesday, and Panda Express.

    • I love Red Lobster and Olive Garden!

      Who doesn’t love cheddar bay biscuits, unlimited shrimp, all you can eat salad and breadsticks, and the tour of Italy?

      I’ll take that over the overpriced bar food at Commonwealth anyday!

      • And additionally, I’ll tell you why I love the IHOP in DCUSA; it caters to the entire community. Look at the people waiting in line at IHOP; it sure looks a lot different from the people eating at Commonwealth. It’s much more representative of the neighborhood that we live in.

    • You’re getting a Panera Bread, I think that fits the bill.

  • Please, please, hire Robb and Dave from Biddy’s up here and make the world right again. It’s just been so off balance since Biddy’s closed.

  • I’ll miss Commonwealth. I loved the burgers, I liked the staff a lot, and the much maligned “private dining room” was really handy if your dinner party included a few small children.

    A bigger bar might help. I was in there one evening at 7pm and only to find four individuals (separately) holding every single bar stool for people they were expecting to meet. But that’s also partly a cultural thing, not to be improved on by “mainstreaming” the place.

  • Sounds like we are just dumbing down Commonwealth and putting Guiness on draft. Not excited. My vote is to just keep it the same. The more diversity the better. Or if you want to change it go a different direction all together. 24 affordable french bistro like the old Au Peid De Cochon in georgetown. That place was great.

  • Do you know if trivia will continue? The Commonwealth Sunday evening quiz was one of my favorites!

  • I’m a little bummed because I never got over to Commonwealth despite passing it hundreds of times. I am disappointed that they are going mainstream (re: Bar food) with the menu, since a gastropub is supposed to offer better food. But I am THRILLED Hank’s is expanding, it is by far the best restaurent (besides Komi) on the 17th Street strip. Hope Hank’s changes to earlier opening hours so I can go there before daycare pickup in a while.

  • So…is it getting a new name? I may have missed it from the reports but I can’t tell!

  • I echo most of the questions about the similar concept in two restaurants feet from each other. But what I might find most troubling is that that same person owns both bars in that area of CoHe. This city really needs competition for prices in spots like that, and I’m afraid that this means that every pint of beer will be $8+ and that the selection will be mediocre. It’s getting harder and harder to find a pint (and I mean pint–not 12 oz. or 10 oz. like Meridian, Big Hunt, and others are going toward) of a good beer for anything under $8. Even 12 oz. glasses these days are $8 or $9. I know this is an expensive city, but things are really starting to get out of hand.

    • Independent business owners opening establishments with their own initiative and financing do not exactly qualify as a freedom-threatening dangerous beer monopoly.

      You honestly think things are “really starting to get out of hand???” So whose “hand” ought to stop them? Of course there are a lot of dumb-ass comments on this blog – but really – listen to yourself!

  • (That last comment directed to rooty tooty).

    I will reiterate what I said on the last thread on this … pleeassseeee keep the beer list the same or similar, really, a great list of tremendous, hard-to-find, UK ales like Duchy, St. Peter’s, various Sam Smith’s, and so on … that is at least one way to keep it differentiated.

    And yeah, I hope there is not much overlap in the food between these two places … put a true pub with really good meat pies and things like that, I would love.

  • DcBlue, the rents are just, (sorry folks), too damn high in those big Columbia Heights commercial buildings to survive selling cheap beer, that’s just the way it is. The Raven and Red Derby aren’t far away, and both are great, cheap places to drink, both with great atmosphere. But as for bars in DCUSA or the high-rent Donatelli buildings, there is just no way to survive selling three or four bucks beers, unfortunately.

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