After nearly 25 years, one of Capitol Hill’s oldest of old school bars is getting new owners.
Chris and Jeff Price tell CHS they are stepping away from the Roanoke Park Place Tavern, the North Capitol Hill bar they have owned and run together since May of 1995.
“It’s become a place with a lot of ghosts,” Chris tells CHS about the decision.
Stepping out from behind the bar to take over the Roanoke will be a couple who have also served many a drinker from behind the pub’s bar. The buyers are Sean Donovan and Teresa McElhinney. While the deal hasn’t yet closed, Price says she believe the bar is in excellent hands to keep the good times coming and help extend the building’s reported 89 or so years as a tavern and 39 years as the Roanoke.
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The Prices took over the tavern in 1995 after graduating and facing adulthood. Jeff had been working for his family’s bar business before setting out on his own. The Prices had some connections to the broker selling the Roanoke and Chris said they lived on the Hill at the time but had never been in. They visited the bar, snapped it up, and began what became a 25-year career in North Capitol Hill hospitality.
Back then, the Roanoke was a simpler place. “When we took over, it was beer and wine only,” Price said. “The bottles were kept in an ice trough behind the bar and we covered that up with a furry rug at night.”
When CHS talked with her about their 20th anniversary with the bar, Chris said they had tried to keep the tavern much like it was back when they first took over outside of some new paint here and there. She said some criticize the Roanoke for being on the dingy side in some spots, but it doesn’t bother her. “That’s probably true, but we like it that way,” she said at the time.
Along the way, the Prices have also navigated some of the roughest waters of small business ownership as a new owner took over the building and, for a time, it looked like they would lose their lease. Like most emergencies along the way, the landlord issue was solved with some conversation and patience. And probably a bit of money.
This year, the Prices found themselves ready to move on from the well-loved tavern after Jeff’s dad Gary Price passed away unexpectedly. Gary was integral as the bar’s do it all handyman while the family also pitched in on things like doing the tavern’s books. With family change also came the time for a change behind the bar at the Roanoke.
As for the sale, Price said selling a bar on Capitol Hill in 2019 won’t make you rich. “Things don’t sell like they used to,” she says. With the sale, Chris Price is also ready to hand over a piece of her identity. “We own the Roanoke,” was how she answered what she did for a living for the last 25 years.
“None of that stuff is going away,” she said. “I’m still gonna go there. I’m just not going to be behind the bar.”
Price says she plans to keep her day job while Jeff is thinking about going back to the last thing he did before he became the owner of the Roanoke Park Place Tavern — going back to school.