“Patriotism is supporting your country all the time, and your government when it deserves it.” - Mark Twain
by Chason Gordon
- The Capitol Hill Times -
With the closure of B&O Espresso, Five Fish, and the incoming shuttering of Bauhaus and Half Price Books, Capitol Hill has been suffering from a bit of gentrification fatigue of late. Added to the list is Canterbury Ales & Eats, set to close by the end of 2013, ending its 37 years on the Hill.
The building housing the Canterbury and Fredonia Apartments is owned by Capitol Hill Housing, which has decided not to renew the lease, a decision that was made four years ago. CHH has not officially commented on reasons.
“We’re not upscale enough for them,” commented Stefanie Roberge, who owns Canterbury with her husband. “Their statement of being is that they want to keep the neighborhood a neighborhood, but they’re turning it into some yuppie wonderland.” Though the Canterbury has been late with the rent for the past five months, Roberge said it’s the first time in 15 years, and that “we’re completely caught up.”
“Ideally we could sell the business to somebody and then CHH would give them a lease,” said Roberge. “Otherwise we’re going to have to walk away from our $200,000 investment – which is what we bought the equipment and name and everything for – and not have any retirement money whatsoever.”
What saddens Roberge is the impact on her more than 20 employees, many of whom have been with the Canterbury for years. “We’ve got such a great staff,” she said. “It makes me cry that all these people are going to be out of work.”
At a recent Capitol Hill Housing meeting, a few employees and customers expressed concern over losing a staple of the community. One customer said that with fewer and fewer public spaces on the Hill, the Canterbury has functioned as a gathering place for people of lower income.
“It happens to be a bar,” she said, “but its significance is far beyond that.”
With pool tables, shuffleboard, a fireplace, and cheap liquor and food, the Canterbury’s English-themed space acts as a second home to many Capitol Hill residents. Various weddings, birthday parties and wakes have filled the vaunted space over the years. “We were packed for the election,” said Roberge. “Whenever something major happens people come here to talk about it… It’s way more than a place to drink.”
“The Canterbury has been a traditional haunt for comedians for as long as I’ve been doing comedy,” said Brett Hamil, a local comedian. “It feels like a place from a bygone era.”
Hamil fondly recalls some of the odder moments at Canterbury. “They would have Taser Tuesdays. One of the waitresses had a Taser, and she would tase anyone who wanted to be tased.” Hamil never partook, but he remembers arriving to hear customers saying, “Dude, you missed it man, she just tased us.”
With that in mind, supporters can head to saveourcanterbury.org and contact Capitol Hill Housing to give their opinion about the closure. In the meantime, many are hoping its long tradition can survive in some form.
“It would suck to live in a neighborhood where you couldn’t walk to a dive bar,” Hamil said. “If the only choices I have are little frou-frou boutique bars…you just want a good old dive bar. You need that.”