Robert Lester Cunninghma, 77, a nightclub and restaurant owner and operator in Washington who also was active in real estate, died of cardiac arrest Thursday at his home in Washington. He had diabetes and arteriosclerosis.

In 1942, Mr. Cunningham acquired the Casbah Club and Restaurant. It attracted some of the top musicians during the 1940s and early 1950s. He operated the club on U Street NW from 1957 to 1969, and in later years rented it to other operators. At one time he also owned the Cimarron Club in Washington.

He was a lifelong resident of Washington. During his early years, he worked with his father as an interior decorator. He then began a jukebox distribution and record supply business. Later, he opened and operated three record shops in the District. He had extensive holdings in real estate, including the floors above the Casbah, where rooms still are rented out.

Mr. Cunningham was a member of the Pigskin Club and Bachelor Benedict.

His marriage to Marvelle Cunningham ended in divorce.

Surviors include his wife of 35 years, the former Helen Meredith, of Washington; two children by his first marriage, Robert L., of Los Angeles, and Jean Garrido of Washington; five grandchildren, and two great-grandchildren.