Quarry House Tavern reopened in the former Piratz Tavern building last night, and even though the banner outside announced the name of the business as "Quarry House Temporary," it already feels like home.
The Quarry House staff spent the last seven days prepping the space: Painting the walls red; hanging a museum's worth of old beer signs and posters; stringing Christmas lights overhead; and hauling a ton of equipment across Georgia Avenue, including bottle coolers, a fryer, refrigerators, a griddle, and a number of tables. In fact, there was a line of around 25 people outside at 7 p.m. waiting to get into the bar. The delay, owner Jackie Greenbaum said later, was that the staff was still constructing the backbar, because they needed somewhere to put bottles and empty glasses.
The original Quarry House Tavern has been closed since the early hours of March 20, when a fire destroyed much of the Bombay Gaylord restaurant above it. The status of both businesses has been up in the air since. "We've had a lot of conflicting information about how long Quarry House is going to stay closed," Greenbaum said. "Every week, I get different information. Last Friday, I was told by a county inspector that it looks like we'd be able to open with relative ease." On the other hand, she said, "The damage upstairs is bad, and it hasn't been resolved to what the county wants us to do." Greenbaum is worried that the Quarry House may not be able to open before the Bombay Gaylord is also ready.
Beyond all the uncertainty, Greenbaum said, "My staff is out of work." She also felt "a yearning to keep the Quarry House alive." And then, in a moment that Greenbaum calls "synchronicity," Piratz Tavern owner Tracy Rebelo announced her business was closing, moving out of a building right across the street from the Quarry House. Rebelo reached out to Greenbaum, and last month, the two women shook hands on a deal that will see Greenbaum take over the final year of Piratz's 10-year lease. "If it takes nine months for Quarry House to reopen, perfect," Greenbaum said. "If it only takes three months, we can put a different concept in here [for the rest of the time]."
While the Quarry House has its charms – low ceilings, the vestiges of years of hard drinking – the new building has plenty of advantages, including natural light in the bar, a larger kitchen and a large patio. Quarry House Temporary plans to take advantage of all three.
The biggest change is outdoor seating, which should be ready this week with the addition of new umbrellas. Then, in May, there will be brunch, because "A patio to me says brunch," Greenbaum said. "We never really did brunch at the Quarry House. We tried a couple of times, but it never took off."
After brunch service is up and running, Greenbaum is shooting for lunch service to begin. The increased kitchen capacity means Quarry House can expand the menu, including the return of onion rings, which were nixed in favor of tater tots after Greenbaum bought the bar in 2005.
But what's good, as always at Quarry House, are the drinks and the prices. Last night, the taps held four DC Brau beers, and the bottle list was stocked with Flying Dog, Dogfish Head, Evolution, Goose Island and Brooklyn, all for $5 a pop. (Most beers are in the $5 to $6 range, though Yuengling cans and PBR tallboys are cheaper, at $4.) The celebrated whiskey list is smaller than it was across the street, but still represents excellent value, with Bulleit and Elijah Craig 12-year among the choices for $6 each. Speaking of bourbon: Greenbaum is technically not allowed to bring over the large bourbon collection from Quarry House, which she says escaped the fire unscathed, but she's going to appeal for a special exemption from the county to do so.
The doors will open daily at 4 p.m. for now, with earlier weekend hours coming once brunch starts. One extra advantage to the new location: the bar is allowed to stay open until 2 a.m. on weeknights and 3 a.m. on weekends, which is an hour later than the old Quarry House license. Greenbaum says she's planning on sticking to early closing times for now – "the staff is accustomed to 1 and 2," she said – but will probably shift to later weekend hours eventually, once they're settled in.
Going by the crowds and the lively vibe last night, I don't think it will take too long.
Quarry House Tavern, 8402 Georgia Ave., Silver Spring. www.facebook.com/QuarryHouse.