Colonel Brooks Tavern closing after 32 years

Skeeter West (left) and a group of regulars gather at Colonel Brooks Tavern on Friday for the last time. Photo: Mark Segraves

Friday marked the end of an era in D.C.'s Brookland neighborhood, as regulars and loyal customers to Colonel Brooks Tavern descended on the Northeast D.C. staple for one final time before it closes.

There were lots of hugs and laughter as longtime patrons of the Monroe Street NE establishment gathered for the last time at the venerable bar.

"When you come here, everybody knows your name," Brookland resident Peter Moore said. "It's going to be sorely missed."

For more than 32 years, this corner bar has served as the hub of the community in the shadow of Catholic University. However, Colonel Brooks Tavern is falling victim to a wave of redevelopment in the neighborhood.

There are several large projects already underway in Brookland, and the building that replaces the tavern will house 213 apartments and 13,000 square feet of retail space. While many mourn the loss the watering hole, the idea of moving forward isn't the worst.

"It's progress," longtime customer Dr. Roscoe Jones said. "There are chapters in life and now, here's a chapter that's closing. I will always remember the experience and the camaraderie. It was just a beautiful experience."

Along with the new development, Colonel Brooks Tavern arguably struggled to emerge from the shadow of a 2003 murder that rocked the Brookland community. In April of that year, a former employee and several others came in as three members of the morning crew were readying the place for opening.

The three current employees were slain execution style in the robbery attempt.

The former employee who attempted to rob the bar killed himself when police were closing in on him. Several others either pleaded guilty or were convicted of involvement in the slayings.

"I remember the scene out front with the teddy bears and candles," Colonel Brooks Tavern GM Rudy Manili said.

While the restaurant tried to get back to normal after the murders, the bar's owner decided to retire. Contrary to rumors, he won't be opening up another restaurant; however, another one will return to the new development.

However, while the tavern will soon be gone, it won't be forgotten. Some of the bar's history will be preserved in the form of the photos that hang on its walls, which will go into the new building, Manili said.

Beyond the tangible memories, the thoughts and experiences for those who spent 32 years calling Colonel Brooks Tavern home will live on in their hearts and minds.

"This is the watering hole for Northeast Washington," longtime customer Pamela Taylor said. "We're sorry to see it go."