Update on New Bar/Restaurant Moving into old CommonWealth Space in Columbia Heights

“Dear PoP,

I was walking by the old Commonwealth space this weekend and noticed that all the Commonwealth insignia have been removed from the front fence and facade. Any word on when the new space will be open or a name?”

Back in Feb. ’11 we learned that CommonWealth was closing at 1400 Irving St NW near the Columbia Heights metro. Recently I’ve been getting many inquiries for an update like the query above. So here’s what I’ve learned.

The new name will be selected very soon and with one of the final options there could be a connection with the new name and the history of Columbia Heights. It is very likely that the new place will be open pretty soon around July 1st. I was able to take a quick tour and while you’ll recognize the CommonWealth space there has already been massive changes. The space has been completely opened up. The new bar/restaurant kinda reminded me of a smaller scale, more modern American Ice Company with the addition of some live music similar to like they have at Hill Country (in the basement a sorta country/southern/blue grass vibe.) Another similarity to Hill Country will be some bbq options on the menu though the complete menu will also offer some other southern specialties.

Sound like a good fit for Columbia Heights?

I’ll be sure to update as we get closer to July 1st.

70 Comment

  • I am wishing for the best, but Lou’s was a big disappointment.

    • I’m fine with Lou’s. It’s not my favorite bar in the world, but it seems pretty packed when I walk by most nights, so apparently they are doing something right. I’m mostly glad to see all the business in there. You don’t have to be good for everybody to be good for the neighborhood.

  • Can we just declare it a pretentious, overpriced, hipster-riddled Home Depot flip job with bad food and lousy service now and get it over with?

    • Can it really be overpriced AND hipster-riddled?

      I still think we should ban the word “hipster.” No one is, or will admit to being, a hipster.

      • “No one is, or will admit to being, a hipster.”

        But that’s what makes it such a useful term!

        • austindc

          I’m a hipster! I have the fixie and everything! I even have cuffs on my jeans! I really do. I just don’t have any hipster tattoos like the DC flag on my forearm or a big star on my elbow.

          • Why do I get the sense that hipster-bashing has very similar roots to gay-bashing? There’s this ‘I hate you b/c deep down I admire & like you’ vibe that I feel when people bash on the hipsters. Just saying.

  • Why does everyone think they went out of business? General economy? pricing? competition, quality of food or service, etc? Was it the theme/ menu, etc?

    Any broader comments on business survival in the Columbia Heights Metro area? What other places, up and down 14th street, in particular, have done as poorly or worse, or better?Didn’t that “Social” place further up closing down a while back? Other examples?

    Not enough yuppies? Too much stabbiness/ shooting ? Stabby/Yuppie ratio all wrong?
    Don’t get me wrong, I used to live in the area, and I understand how it has gotten better, but doesn’t the area have to have a better reputation to get the timid folk from Arlington to frequent it , rather than just draw in local hipsters and the brave?

    (I’m not wedded to this argument- just throwing it out there for debate- – simply because many, many women that I’ve dated categorically refuse to go to Columbia Heights– even though they’d have an unafraid, chivalrous man taking them there ๐Ÿ˜‰ ..)

    • They didn’t go out of business, I believe the restaurant was sold because the original owner wanted to concentrate on another project. And the new owner closed because they wanted to change it up a bit. Also, Social closed because of some sort of weird tax issues, not lack of business. For the most part, businesses in the area are doing ok, especially restaurants.

      So, basically, you’re dating a bunch of wimps.

      • When a restaurant says they closed so that the owner could “concentrate on another project,” it means that they went out of business.

        As for Lou’s, the fact that it’s packed with the kind of people who want to sit on the patio and watch random baseball games on a big screen TV is another sign of the apocalypse. They and their bar should be transported to a strip mall in Herndon, where they belong.

        Is the new place a barbecue place (hence comparisons to Hill Country and Icehouse?)

        • DCUSA is a strip mall without the convenience of a sprawling parking lot.

          • you don’t know what a strip mall is.

          • it has a slightly less convenient (though still enormous) underground parking lot. much more charming.

            also, any self-respecting strip mall has a nail salon and a dry cleaner.

        • +1

          Money makes the world go round. If Commonwealth or Social were making lots of money, they’d still be open. You don’t just close a business to focus on another one or spend time with your family; you sell the business.

          Welcome to Earth.

        • It’s always a pleasure to see such a reflective and precise analysis, but in this case it means the owner wanted to free up cash so she could expand her other restaurant, Hank’s Oyster Bar, which is in progress.

          • Thanks for the sarcasm. If you have the option of selling a business to make money or closing a business down “to free up cash,” you sell the business. The reason you don’t sell the business is that your goodwill isn’t worth a piss or because your business is in the red, and thus no one wants to purchase your business. Destroying your build-out (that the landlord didn’t pay for and you did) is a collosal waste of money. Restaurants have fixed costs (like, um, silverware).

            This sort of claim is a great example of the general naivete of commenters on this site. Commonwealth wasn’t a successful business and now it’s gone.

            Again, I welcome you to Earth. We generally don’t try to build businesses, invest in fixed costs, and then close them down.

        • mmmmmm… Icehouse

        • Spot on Irving Streete. And I remember during the hockey playoffs so many of the customers sporting Capital jerseys. It thought to myself (or did it mutter it aloud (!), ten years ago this crowd would have been out in Rockville along with Target and Best Buy.

          • Yeah, those Caps dudes are everywhere. I was biking through Shaw the other day, and some of them were on one of those bike rickshaws. They asked to buy drugs from me. I’m fairly clean cut looking; they were just *really* drunk. Makes you want to carry around a packet of oregano.

    • OK. A bunch of us commenters got together and discussed your private social life for a bit before coming up with proper way to say this. Here it goes: we think any lady who doesn’t deign set foot in Columbia Heights probably doesn’t deserve the kind arm of a gentleman such as yourself. You could do better, honey.

      Now go out there and get you a real woman.

  • If they’re going for the Hill Country vibe, they’re doing something very, very right. Can’t wait to see how it turns out!

  • I hope they don’t have Hill Country prices – $12 for ONE slice of brisket!!!

  • I just hope the food has no relation whatsoever to the food served at Lou’s. Because I agree that has been a MAJOR let-down; I still have hopes that, eventually, they will improve the food quality.

    I miss Commonwealth. I loved the beer list, lots of beers you couldn’t get anywhere else in the neighborhood or really most of the District, and that won’t be coming back. The food was a bit hit-or-miss, but at least was interesting / different from other area options, and could be very good when at its best. And I liked the vibe. I worry, based on Lou’s, that this place will be far more generic / uninteresting / less thoughtful in execution. I hope that I’m wrong.

    • Indeed, I too shall miss their beer selection, especially the cask-conditioneds.

      And, really, whatever opens here, if they’re trying to replicate Hill Country, just don’t replicate their beer list (which consists of just Shiner Bock, which isn’t a bad beer at all, but lacks…variety).

    • You’re right about the food at CommonWealth. It was usually not that good, but when it was good, it was excellent.

    • Hi PoP readers,

      This is my first comment, but I read the posts and comments daily-and love ’em all.

      I just wanted to mention that I recently found out that the reason my apartmnet was having mouse problems (I live in the building right above the restaurant) was because Commonwealth was infested. That’s right, infested.

      I learned this from the pest control man who came to my apartment almost every week until we figured out the source. He learned this from a worker who was helping clean out the restaurant for the new owner, and discovered a ridiculous number of mice.

      I liked Commonwealth, but I’m very glad it’s gone.

  • I am, however, very happy for another place in the ‘hood to see live music, I could definitely be down for some bluegrass, etc. Glad to hear they are incorporating space for musicians.

    • Maybe they can shanghai Bob Perilla & Big Hillbilly (bluegrass) from Madam’s Organ and I’ll never have to go beyond a 5 block radius of my house for anything ever again!

    • Yes! I completely agree. More live music would be excellent.

  • I thought the early scuttlebutt said this was going to become an Irish pub type thing??

    • Prince Of Petworth

      Yup those were the early thoughts but that plan has changed.

      • Great! Another decent restaurant/bar aimed a bit older (like America Ice co.) would be a welcome addition to 14th st.

        • Hey! Get your own handle!

          • Hey! get your own… I don’t know… different initals?

            hmm That doesn’t seem workable

        • American Ice Company is aimed for an older crowd? Really? I’ve only been there once but I felt like I had been teleported to a slightly less annoying version of Clarendon (due to the clientele, not the staff nor design of the place).

          • i like the place. i’m older. i’ve never gone out drinking in clarendon, so don’t really know the vibe.

          • + a brazillion. I’m 41 and felt like Abe Vigoda at AIC.

          • LOL Any post with Abe Vigoda is a winner. ๐Ÿ™‚

          • Compared to Red Derby it’s like a retirement home…

          • i once saw a table of 5 “kids” with 5 iphones on the table. no joke. more than 50% were also wearing buddy holly style glasses.

          • More than 50% of 5 people! How many was it, like 2.7? Its a bar that serves $6-$7 in Mason jars that are less than the size of regular pint glass. What kind of people do you expect it to attract?

          • austindc

            Wait, aren’t those pint-sized mason jars?

          • bfinpetworth

            I’m 50 and we love AIC. But we go early and leave early to avoid the younger crowd. Its kind of a regular Friday evening stop for us – a few drinks and some really good pork barbque sandwiches.

          • Nah, I’m pretty sure they’re about 14 oz or so.

  • I hate the sight of a British pub. I was disappointed when Commonwealth opened and relieved when they went out of business. Celebrations of British culture should not be supported.

    I really don’t like the vibe around the Columbia Heights metro. Those new buildings make me feel like I’m out in the burbs. It has no soul. 11th St, up 14th, or Mt. Pleasant are better options.

  • Well maybe stop focusing on the buildings and more on the people around you. Don’t think you’d find a similar scene in the burbs.

    • while i love columbia heights in general, and enjoy its diversity, i beg to differ with you on this point. in the bars in the immediate block or so surrounding the columbia heights metro (i mean immediate), i don’t think you’ll find a hugely different demographic than you would in clarendon or bethesda. i never saw a whole lot of ethnic or age diversity at commonwealth (or lou’s or pho viet or the heights).

      interestingly enough, if you’re looking for that kind of diversity, you’ll actually find it in IHOP. that is the only eating establishment i’ve been to in the neighborhood that is truly representative of the surrounding neighborhood.

    • Are you sure about that?

  • bfinpetworth

    Good riddance to Commonwealth. We tried that place a couple times and had trouble getting the bartender to even LOOK at us. I think we weren’t hip enough. Of course, its hard to be hip enough when you are 50 and 58. But whatevs, bartenders like that have no idea what good tippers we are! Their loss.

  • bartender at Lou’s told me that the new bar would be called Cask and Chords (or something like that), and would be more of a live music/music-themed place. sounds like a good balance to me with lou’s being a sports bar and all

    • Rustic bluegrass music in the stuffy confines of gentrified Columbia Heights. How can that not equal unparalleled success?

  • If the current owners/management of Lou’s are behind this project……I fear the worst.

    • I work around the corner from Lou’s. Its a perfect spot for drinks and happy hour bar food. However, the service has been abysmal. We have given Lou’s 3+ opportunities, and each time we end up disappointed. Huge waits for food, check and incorrect orders, make this place a huge no go for us here.

      We now have foresaken Lou’s and take a walk down the block to the Heights. Its a shame. we would love to eat/drink at a place that’s soooo close.

      Hopefully, the new spot will be better.

  • i work with the people of Lou’s who are actually amazing guys, great operators and do a TON of business. the food is above average bar food, the service ive experience is great, they show lots of sports and have a sweet outside sitting area. I don’t see anything wrong with Lou’s. The new place will be more of an Italian themed place, with lots of different burgers like bison and things like that. The working name is of one of their grandmothers…I think is an up and coming area like Columbia Heights, both restaurants are amazing additions. Its really not that hipster either, and i would know, I’m a hipster!!!!!!!!!! :p give them a chance! get to know the guys if you live there, i think you’ll learn to love it!!! and if you have any suggestions, let me know and i’ll pass it along.

  • Just to confirm, the food will not be Italian and the bar will not be named after anyone’s grandmother. Those ideas were put to rest some time ago. Everything else the previous poster said sounds accurate. Thanks for enjoying Lou’s…hope you come by the new spot when it opens.

  • Noted John! Thanks for the update!

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