Commonwealth Gastro Pub Closing in Columbia Heights at end of the Month!!!

More insane huge crazy news. And this is most def. not scuttlebutt – this is happening. Commonwealth located at 1400 Irving St NW was the space owned by Jamie Leeds from Hank’s Oyster Bar fame. Thanks to all who sent emails about this.

I’m told they will close at the end of the month. The space will be closed for 60 days before a new ownership takes over. There will be a new name though it will remain pub food. I’ll be sharing lots more details in the near future.

To take a look back in time, we first checked out CommonWealth back in Aug. ’08. Will you miss them?

143 Comment

  • Sad news. Their food didn’t compare to Hank’s, but I always enjoyed the atmosphere and the outdoor seating was one of my favorite places for Sunday Brunch in the neighborhood.

    • So here’s what I know — Lou’s City Bar is going to be a sports bar, a little further down towards 16th Street. 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. It’s not closing for lack of business.

      • It’s really hard to believe the same person was responsible for both Hanks and Commonwealth. Hank’s is great. Commonwealth was anything but.

      • This makes a lot of sense. That bar was too small for a pub and the private dining room space didn’t seem like it was worth having.

      • Thanks for the update Michael. Do you know who is operating Lou’s (and now this space) and what else they have run in DC? What sort of food will Lou’s have?

        It would be really great is Lou’s is very distinct in terms of menu from this place … if they are both just pub / bar grub, that would be totally duplicative. I just hope the food is (a) good and (b) somewhat distinct / differentiated from what is already availabe at Meridian Pint, The Heights and, soon, Lou’s.

        I do like the idea of taking that middle room out, that really didn’t add anything much. Putting in hardwood floors sounds fine, but I hope they don’t alter the rest of the decor, which is nice, much. Also, I like the theme of British music always playing, a little different from your average DC place.

        But, again, most of all, PLEASE encourage them to keep the UK-centric beer menu, with lots of beers you don’t often see around DC. Meridian Pint (and presumably Lou’s) both have a huge american beer list, so there is no need for another place like that.

        Look forward to hearing more about the plans for both Commonwealth and Lou’s!

  • Good! I hate idea of things shutting down in our neighborhood but I tried to give this place a change so many times. The waiters were rude and pretentious – I hope the change in management will bring an establishment that shares the chill attitude of the rest of the neighborhood bars.

    • Yeah, I’ll second that motion. I went there for a world cup game once, and asked for a beer about 5 minutes before serving time. The bartender said: “No alcohol before 11,” walked away, and immediately poured his group of friends at the end of the bar a round of drinks. I sat and waited until 11:20 or so and still hadn’t been served, so I left.

      I’ll miss the scotch eggs, but everything else about that place sucked.

    • pablo .raw

      I also had the rude waiter experience.

    • Agreed. I had the same blond waiter every time, and he made it such a negative experience that I just stopped going. The breaking point was when he brought everyone’s drinks and appetizers, but my beer still didn’t show up. He was nowhere to be found for half an hour, and when I finally saw him and asked if my drink was coming or maybe they had to change the keg, he got all in a huff and said “No, I’m GETTING it!” Five minutes later, he then slammed my drink on the table with no apologies. I haven’t been back since.

    • Agree with the poor service…. the bartender was rude and acted like it must be our first time ever at a bar when we asked which seasonal beers were on tap. Went for brunch once and the food was bland.

  • Anyone else sell scotch eggs?

  • I’m going to miss those brussel sprouts. Like, a lot. And trivia. Trivia there was great.

  • Wow, this is sad to hear. They took a chance on the neighborhood when it was still developing and I really like the atmosphere and beer selection, and generally the food, although in that one area it could be slightly improved (though still one of the best food options in CH as-is). I hope the new ownership doesn’t change the decor or concept much, as I really enjoy both, and most of all, don’t change the only area UK-centric beer list I know. Please, please keep the beer list intact!!!

    I am glad at least that new ownership is taking over, and I hope any changes are more in the nature of tweaks than wholesale re-dos. I am nervous because places that have changed ownership in the area have generally changed for the worse … in particular Rumberos, where Allero destroyed their amazing decor to turn it into a hideously cheesey lounge, and Looking Glass, which is a pale imitation of Temperance Hall (although at least they didn’t change the decor TOO much).

    • Yeah, Looking Glass was definitely a huge downgrade to Temperance Hall. I miss the awesome rye drinks and the jukebox downstairs.

    • Small nit here: they took a chance “when the neighborhood was developing”?? I think that’s a bit of a stretch. They jumped in (August 2008) when it was reasonably assured to take off: Target, WSC, etc. were all open, and the new residential buildings had been online for some time.

      Just adding my perspective, but when I think about places that took a chance, I look at Wonderland, Temperance Hall (now Looking Glass), Columbia Heights Coffee, and the failed Rumberos. Those were the businesses that were taking chances (no offense to Ruby Tues, but I assume that it enjoyed some comfort in corporate ownership).

  • This is a big loss. The place had good food, good, beer, and good service (never encountered rude or pretentious).

  • I’ll miss it, but I already miss what it was like when it first opened. The food and service were both a thousand times better. I’m not sure who left the place or when, but at some point the menu & kitchen really went downhill.

  • Bittersweet reaction here, depending on what follows. And I would prefer “pub food” but this place didn’t quite have it. Overall menu was too foofy. I’ve been barking about the need for a decent English-style pub for centuries and while the mission-statement of this place sounded great (all “pub for the people” & etc), it was still too chef-edgy.

    Screw chef-edgy. A decent working-class English without overly ambitious decor & menu items will win the day every time forever. Seriously, investors: Stop trying for Zagat-guide kudos (or whatever) and deliver a solid pub. I’ll be your customer for life.

    • A-freakin’-men.

    • Agreed completely, Commonwealth was harldly a place for the common man. Beer list was decent but ludicrously high priced (Same with Againn). Sine in Pentagon City is more what I would prefer, the bar is the focus but you can get a decent meal there and you won’t spend $40 on a just a few pints.

  • I went there once, I thought the prices were not reasonable. So I won’t miss it. I think this is a good opportunity for a better/restaurant to come in and make better use of this space.

    • Completely agree with A. The prices just weren’t reasonable for the quality of food produced. When Commonwealth opened up their food was actually decent, but things pretty quickly went down hill.

      They’ve got a good beer selection, but also overpriced.

    • I’ll chime in on this as well. As a lover of pubs and good beer, it would seem natural for me to go there a bunch – but I didn’t. The main reason for this was overpriced food & beer. I’m sure rent in that complex isn’t cheap – so they have to figure out a better way to pay the bills but still get the crowds in.

  • I enjoyed it…good beers.

  • The Queen Vic is slated to open soon on H Street. I hear they are going to be a true British style pub with a great UK beer selection. And that they’re going to serve locally raised meat that they break down in house, so I’m looking forward to the food as well!

    • I have always understood that “true british style” food sucks…hope that isn’t the case for this new place.

      Commonwealth…I liked. never had rude waiters, food was good, and they always had a vegetarian option. I am really sad to see them go.

    • “locally raised meat”

      do you know where you live? pass.

      • “Local” typically means within a day’s drive, or about 400 miles, according to wikipedia. Some pretty good farms in Virginia I suspect.

      • Farms in VA, MD, and PA are still considered “local” when it comes to where your food is from. Pretty sure they won’t be scraping up dead rats from the DC streets to serve.

  • Their bartenders were D*cks…they were pompous and were rude. Having said that, it sucks to lose another store front. With the sports bar coming and Panera Bread it looked like the store space was finally filling up over there.

  • Not the best Gastro Pub, but I certainly enjoyed going there for a pint after work. Hope the new owners do mess around with it too much.

  • wait. WHAT? this makes no sense. That place did great business. I go there all the time and it’s often packed to the gills during dinner times. This can’t have anything to do with the place struggling or being on hard times. My guess is Leeds sold it off to fund a new venture? I would think that the new ownership wouldnt change much as it is succesful as it is. I certainly hope they don’t change the farm-to-table pub concept and replace it with cruddy processed food a la Clydes.

  • Will miss it. And better get in there and use some groupons…

    Haven’t been in a while what with the kidlets, but I always thought the food was good and the service friendly, even when we dragged the kids in for early dinner.

  • Is any one else surprised by the news? I only went there a few times but it always seemed pretty full. I agree that the food is a little over-priced and the service is not the greatest but it has a nice atmosphere and the food is tasty. Oh well, hope whatever comes is a good replacement.

  • Boo! I liked Commonwealth. Prices were a bit high to make my visits frequent, but I never left unhappy.

  • I spent many a happy hour and late night happy hour ($2 cans!) at Commonwealth…
    One of very few happy places in my life in DC in 2009.

  • my experience here was highly dependent on which server I landed. a few of the waitresses were great, and a few were just terrible. it’s hard to miss a place where your server literally forgets you exist.

  • I always liked the atmosphere and never thought the service was rude, but I typically sat at the bar. I liked the idea of having so many daily specials on food, but I certainly think the offerings could be upgraded as the menu was very hit or miss in my opinion. I never went to trivia but had heard good things. So I hope that will stay.

    My number one complaint with Commonwealth was the lack of turnaround on their rotating taps. I moved to the neighborhood in September and have been disappointed with the lack of anything new. Recently, they rolled out a new Dogfish Head and the Bell’s Winter White, but it’s still mostly the same lineup as it was in September.

  • depends on what replaces it i guess – i enjoyed the food, drink and atmosphere here, but it was a bit too pricey to go frequently. the garlicy spinach was delicious! what is the reason for closing? it did always seem busy whenever i was there. hope it gets replaced with a local venture and not an applebees or something.

  • I have to agree with Gup. The bartenders really were unconditionally rude. To the point to where one of my friends refused to go there again. I remember observing one instance when a guest asked, “what IPA would you reccommend?” to which the short dark-haired chick said, “I don’t like IPA’s” and walked away. She eventually came back and took his order but was very rude and the entire time he was there I observed her turn up her nose give him dirty looks. The tall bald guy just acts like he’s God’s gift to bar patrons and it’s beneath him to serve you. The slim long dark haired dude was real cool though. He’ll do well.
    So basically, eff that place and the bartenders. CH is better off without them. I hope the next place has better customer service training.
    The scoth eggs were amazing though.

    • one time the bartender accidentally sprayed a can of beer in my face. he didn’t apologize. that was nice of him.

    • Funny. I know exactly the two bartenders you’re referring to and they’ve always both been very cool to me. Never had a problem with rude service – and I go there quite a bit.

      Agree on the food, though. I tried several things, and basically, the only thing I’ll eat is the ‘chips’.

      • One of the bartenders was an @sshole to my friends and I on one of our visits. So we told him he was an @sshole.

  • Oh this is unfortunate! I definitely like their food. They were a nice place to go chill outside with a good beer, and their brunch was actually quite a good deal and tasty as well! Hopefully whatever replaces them gets going fast, I wouldn’t want this place to go empty heading into the summer!

  • This comes as quite a surprise! I always enjoyed Commonwealth – it was the go-to for me and my friends in the neighborhood. That said, the food did change, and it was a bit expensive. Perhaps they were scared that the new bar going in would split their clientele? It was always pretty crowded.

    Oh well, I will always have memories of many a birthday or snow day in good old C’Wealth.

  • Ate there once.

  • randomduck

    Never had a problem with the bartenders or waitstaff, and loved their fish & chips (best in DC). Their other British pub grub was good, too, though could be hit-or-miss. And I love their UK-centric beer list, and hope it stays.

    Still, the place was different from other pubs in Columbia Heights and I liked the difference. Sad, sad news.

    • The best fish & chips around are at Eamonn’s in Old Town Alexandria. But that’s the suburbs, so you probably wouldn’t know anything about that.

      • Better still are the fish and chips at Central, which is neither in the suburbs nor in Columbia Heights.

        The food at Commonwealth was mediocre and the service worse; apart from Metro, I’ve never seen such a sullen and uninterested group of workers.

  • We’ve been to Commonwealth probably at least 10 times in the past year, and I was always happy. It was not cheap, but the quality of the food was always very high. I never had a bad waiter experience, but I also never sat at the bar. It has been kid-friendly enough for us to bring our now one-year-old. I really hope the new owners can keep the food quality high and keep the traditional English goodies on the menu, like the Scotch eggs and beer battered deep fried bacon. They always had good vegetarian alternatives too.

  • I guess Againn kicked their butt in the ‘overly expensive gastro-fad not really a pub’ market. Too pricey and they never learned how to spell Newcastle, so I never made it in.

    Very much looking forward to The Queen Vic (as stated an a comment above).

  • Copy the model for any of this disparate range of places, and I’ll be happy:

    -Palena (cafe w/great food)
    -RFD (lots of great beers, passable pub food at reasonable price)
    -Duffy’s (great wings, full range of beers)

    Or if the trend continues, and CH/DC USA area is going to be all chains, then I vote for the world’s smallest Buffalo Wild Wings.

    • RFD might have the worst cheeseburger in the known universe.

      • Seriously. The food at RFD is a micro-step above what was served at the Brick, which is to say barely edible. While at the bar with friends I have excused myself and walked down to California Tortilla to eat instead of ordered from there. With the Brick no more the owners will focus more attention on RFD, but my guess is that the food will improve not one iota. It may even get worse!

    • I know tastes differ, but I am shocked (shocked!) to hear anyone say the food at RFD is good.

  • I remember I joined some friends at a table outside and left it up to the waiter to get me what he thought would be a good beer choice and he comes out with what I found out later to be a 13 dollar bottle. Who does that?

  • Sad to see it go, we would drop by for brunch or dinner every few weeks. The food was a tad pricey, but I think the quality of what they served made it worthwhile. We never went there to sit at the bar, so can’t comment on the bartenders. The wait staff was always very good.

    I wonder if the protracted NIMBY battle over the Hank’s expansion took more of a financial toll than people thought. Seems odd to be selling a place that didn’t really lack for customers. Who knows.

  • Sad news. I just hope the new owners continue to have cask-conditioneds.

  • I liked the deep-fried olives. Like, a lot.

    But I also thought the service was a weak point– it was either indifferent or actively bad. I hope the owner doesn’t re-hire the same crowd for the new venture.

  • The food and drinks were overpriced but I did enjoy being able to play chess on the bar-area tables. i hope the new place keeps those…

  • I loved this place, but hopefully the Brixton at 9th and U will finish construction sometime in the next year and fill this void.

  • If this place had opened near 14th and U, it would have fared better as all the people who come in from the burbs would have been lined up to go there on the weekends. (Just look at Birch and Barley). The price point was just not appropriate for Columbia Heights. I am not knocking on Columbia Heights, I am just saying that it’s just not a destination spot for late twenty something bar hoppers from outside DC. It will be soon though.

    That said, I never had a problem with the waiters. If you want to be a neighborhood place, you better have friendly staff that recognizes the locals and treats them well.

    • “it’s just not a destination spot for late twenty something bar hoppers from outside DC.”

      Wonderland on weekends would beg to differ.

  • I just don’t want to see Columbia Heights go generic with all chains and sports bars.

  • Panera is coming to CH? Where?

    Something did happen to the CommonWealth, it used to be decent then over the last year or so fell off a cliff. The space seemed dingy and the food just blah. Did have good burgers though.

  • I am in the camp of those that say it is too bad a business in the neighborhood is closing but this place was really on a downward spiral. I view this location, Social, and the Heights as offering sub par product for the prices they were charging.

  • dang.. need to use their gift cards now! thanks for the news!

  • Here’s another vote for keeping at least two cask ales, at all times.

    Some of the waitstaff and bartenders are very good, others can be standoffish. I hope they make some positive changes.

    Wish the new owners would drop the prices on the food a couple bucks and make it up by drawing in more customers. Between Commonwealth and the Heights, all the nice restaurants in CH just charge too damn much.

  • I’m surprised but not disappointed. I went pretty frequently during their first year, and enjoyed the food immensely. I’ve been twice in the last six months however, and had already decided not to go back. The food went from good/great to barely edible. Last time it was the fish and chips- served cold and way too soggy.

  • What restaurant is moving into the space to the right of Commonwealth? Looks like they had applications for liquor licenses in the window yesterday.

  • None of you know what actually happened. CW didn’t make that much money and it was struggling for a long time. The food went downhill because the chefs didn’t give a shit…and neither did Jamie Leeds. You can’t have a good menu or execution of the menu when the owner is never there and doesn’t care. All investors sold their share to the building with little notice to the staff. The pub was the only thing that made money. As for rude bartenders/servers: I never encountered that…perhaps you’re just a D*CK.

    • You work there?

    • you the bartender that is bald dude or the short black haird chick referred to above???

      …sorry you lost your job…but next time try “service with a smile.”

    • Actually I am one of the nicest people ever – always polite and friendly.

      Since you’re the one who felt the need to call complete strangers who are just expressing a personal experience dicks then maybe you are the dick in this group. And it’s possible that the waiters/bartenders recognized your extreme dickyness and welcomed you as one of their own.

      • you are the black haired chix talked about above.
        I guess it is the customer’s fault that the BARTENDERS were dicks…our bad! sorry i forgot the customer comes to a restaurant/bar to serve the staff…wherever are my manners all this time i’ve expected pleasant, accurate, and timely service from the staff for my 20%+ tips that i leave.

      • I do not work there and I’m none of those people. However, if you call someone a dick, don’t be offended if others respond to that. MegDC, I wasn’t talking about you, I was referring to theGup’s comment.

  • Bummer but the place always seemed like a bit of an afterthought which is weird because it was supported by the neighborhood. I’m glad to hear about the new owner. With some careful ownership, this place could really thrive. It could use some sound proofing so I’m glad to hear about the wood floors. I liked the food and the concept. I’ll be back once it reopens.

  • The only thing I’ll miss is the opportunity to use an entire bottle of Colman’s mustard on a burger there, and not having to buy it for $5 at the grocery store. I did have one EXCEPTIONAL waitress experience there (a middle-aged black lady who corrected a kitchen error and was charming to us the rest of the night) but otherwise I never got a kind vibe from anyone, from the front of the house to the bar.

    • i had that same waitress..she was awesome!

      Only the Bartenders were rude to me…especially that bald dude talked about above. He acted like the PATRONS were their to pray to him.

  • There are way too many people making comments that the staff was rude for it not to be true.

  • We will miss it. It was a regular place for good food. Light years ahead of The Heights in terms of atmosphere, food, and price. And we rarely had any service issues. in fact, we were almost always treated exceptionally well. I fear the loss of an upper middle range price point and quality of food, and I hope the Marvin folks can fill the nitch with their planned spot in the 3900 block of Georgia.

  • i was always glad to have commonwealth as an option in the neighborhood, but was never totally impressed. it’s always unfortunate to see a business fail in Columbia Heights, but at least it looks like there is another (and hopefully better) pub taking over that spot in a few months.

    Does anyone know what’s going on with the Social spot?

    • Bear

      I have some second-hand knowledge, but I don’t know how accurate it is. Apparently Social owes a pretty hefty amount of taxes to DC, so the city put a lien on the liquor license. Anyone wanting to put another restaurant in there will have to pay the back taxes.

  • Will miss it but will not miss the ketchup cocktail they pass as a bloody mary.

  • Potentialy great news…depends on what is going in there. Food was OK but was overpriced. Good beer but also overpriced. Probably was there about 4 times but never had any issues with the wait staff. I won’t miss it.

  • I’m glad it is closing. Such prime real estate for such a boring bar.

    The beers are over priced and it’s self proclaimed “Best Happy Hour in DC” (something like that) sucks. Beers should range from 4-10 bucks with happy hour having $2 off regular price.

    The food remaining “pub food” is fine. Meridian Pint and Wonderland remain far superior and I am sure more bars will continue to pop up forcing restaurant/bar owners to make adjustments.

    This bar needed to make an adjustment to the clientele and it wouldn’t have gone out of busines. You are in Columbia Heights, not the heart of DuPont.

    Lived in Columbia Heights for 3 years went twice to Commonwealth. The Heights/Meridian Pint/Wonderland over 50 times to each.

  • To the person that said they are the “nicest person ever”:
    I don’t know you and I don’t know if you were one of the people that I’m referring to so I have no choice but to assume that you are truely the nicest person ever and are always polite and friendly. If that’s the case I wish you were working when I was there…multiple times. And I also wish you would have been able to show your co-workers how to be nice and friendly because they sure didn’t express that.
    Look, I don’t want to get into a back and forth about if the service was actually bad or not. I just expressed that I had a bad experience with the service multiple times. This was shortly after they had been open for a year. And that is a fact. I have no reason to make this up. I don’t doubt that the owner didn’t care or the chefs didn’t care or whatever. You know better than us. That’s too bad but customer service is important and should be upheld no matter what because at the end of the day, the people that receive the bad service and bad attitude will be the same ones that stop coming by. And when that happens, word of mouth will spread and ultimatley business will drop to the point of…well, closure. I’m sure other factors were involved but I can assure you that enough people had bad service or heard about bad service for it to be a factor in it’s downfall. If anything, everyone should be nicer knowing that the place might possibly close due to the lack of interest/effort by the owner and chef(s).

    Also, if you work there then it should be no surprise to you there is even maybe the slightest possibility that there could be bad service. I understand defending your co-workers/friends but at least be aware that it might be possible. Again, I don’t know if you are one of the cuplprits or not but I sure wish I could’ve recorded the experience.

    Everyone else that had a great expereince should hold on to that because when the place has/had good service it is a joy to be there. I just wish I could have those same fond memories.

    • There’s no debate, the service was clearly terrible. The average level of service (with exceptions) in DC is not good and Commonwealth was clearly below that. I encourage everyone if you experience rude or outright terrible service including neglect at a table or the bar, vote with your wallet and do not patronize the establishment again. Clearly poor customer service due to lack of training or poor hiring practices is endemic to this town.

      That said when I experience good to excellent customer service I am very likely to return and recommend it to my friends.

  • I thought the waitress with all the tattoos was nice.

  • they had amazing mac and cheese.
    but i only went 4 times. it was too pricey for what it was.

  • Well this was fun, let’s do it again sometime. Check please.

  • As someone who worked at Pete’s next door and had seen Sandy and Jamie come in the restaurant several times before they opened, it’s too bad hearing this news. Their kitchen took care of us several times when we ran out of ice or ingredients. I rarely had service issues when dining there, though I have to agree that bald bartender isn’t one of the most outgoing/smiley kind of guys.
    Also, just to clear some things up. I have a very good idea what their rent is, and trust me, it’s high! In addition, they use several different food vendors and buy local products. These are SIGNIFICANTLY higher than your generic produce you can buy at the supermarket.
    Having said that, I never found the food all that great. Brunch was very tasty and well priced, but the rest of the food just lacked heart and execution.
    Looking forward to what else moves into my neighborhood.

  • CommonWealth had been struggling financially so I’m not surprised. As for the service being bad, I agree. However, it is unlikely that all the waiters and bartenders are mean people and/or bad at their jobs; the atmosphere and management had a lot more to do with it. Owners and managers alike set the example by : screaming at employees, engaging in and even initiating petty gossip and sexual harassment. It was an incredibly negative environment. Motivated, friendly, and competent individuals were treated with a degree of cruelty I have never seen in the workplace. Add to that the lack of training and poor hiring practices mentioned by jt$, it’s a wonder they survived this long.

  • I will definitely miss the cask beer–the beer selection in general I suppose. The food was pretty damned good for pub fair. It was a great spot to grab chow and and a beer after a night at the 930.

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