14 Dec 2020


Lost Capitol Hill: The Toughest Bar on 8th Street

Paul Interdonato

As the year drags to a close, it’s time to return to one of my favorite themes: Booze. Whether it’s about the old bars, the production of beer, or how Hill residents obtained their liquor during prohibition, I am always there to write these stories up.

So, today, we will look at Guy’s Place, which made sure that locals, and especially the Marines, got their alcohol in the post-war period.

Guy’s Place was opened, appropriately enough, buy a guy named, well, Guy: Guy Paul Interdonato. Born on May 15, 1921 in Washington D.C., the son of Andrea and Terisina Interdonato, both immigrants from Italy, he did not immediately start out as a bartender. Instead, he went to Stuart Middle School and McKinley Tech, before working at the Alexandria Torpedo Factory.

His father, who was baptized Andrea but later went by Andrew, was a barber, with a shop on the 400 block of 8th Street SE, but also had other interests. He owned two houses in the 500 block of 8th— some of the oldest on Barracks Row. While their exact building date is unknown, they are already to be seen on the famous Boschke map of 1857, indicating that they were built before that time. The only problem with these two was their size, or, more accurately, their lack thereof. This is how, in 1938, Andrea filed a permit to expand 531. Five years later, he tried again, filing to build an expansion two doors to the north. This left him with three address: 527, 529, 531. Somewhere along the line, the job of running the bars fell to his son. This included naming the bar at 529 Guy’s Place.

Cover of a souvenir picture taken at Guy’s.

While advertisements of the time call it “the ideal place to spend a pleasant evening,” both contemporary accounts and later recollections paint a very different picture of the establishment. So in 1947, Guy had to face charges of selling alcohol to minors and permitting “disorderly conduct in his place of business.” The former charge was dropped when the police were unable to dig up said minor in time for the trial.

This hardly left Guy without troubles. Two years later, after his restaurant was broken into, he understandably filed charges against one of the burglars, Edward Bardin. He then had to file charges against William E. Bardin, Edward’s brother, who came into his restaurant and “threatened to cut his heart out, if he didn’t drop [the] housebreaking charge.”

In 1950, the situation in Guy’s Place became so dire that “Armed Forces Police” were stationed outside in order to keep servicemen out. Guy protested this, claiming that the only reason his place had been made off limits was a “complaint that servicemen contracted a venereal disease from a woman who came to his restaurant.” The protest came to naught, though later that decade, the “off limits” order must have been rescinded, as it was known by Marines stationed at 8th and I in those years as being the “toughest bar on 8th Street.”

The 1950s also had some positive news for Guy. Along with expanding his empire south, into the building once used by Brinkley’s, he got married – in Italy. He and his wife Antonia returned to the US by TWA from Paris in 1951. Adding to their domestic bliss, they had a son whom they named Andrew after his grandfather. Sadly, Guy would not get to enjoy fatherhood very long, dying in 1953 when his son was all of 10 months old. While he was not buried on the Hill, the Chambers Funeral Home, just three blocks east of his bar, was in charge of the arrangements.

While Guy’s brother Paul (seen above) would take over the management of the bars as a trustee for widow and son, Antonia later sued him for mismanagement. She would work as a clerk in the House of Representatives for about 10 years, dying in 1991.

The buildings that used to sell booze are now (looking from north to south) Cava, empty, and the Duron Paint Store.

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