City Paper is not for tourists
It didn’t have the best barbecue in the area. It didn’t have the best beer selection, either. And it definitely didn’t have the best bands jamming away in its back room. But Half Moon Bar-B-Que in Silver Spring had a relaxed atmosphere, some of the comfiest booths around, and a bar staff quick to listen to your boring-ass stories.
Well, kiss it goodbye. The Half Moon Bar-B-Que officially closed its doors on Sunday among a crowd of loyal customers.
“We have closed as a restaurant and bar,” confirms owner, music-booker, and cook Marc Gretschel. “But we’ll remain as a catering operation.”
So what brought about Half Moon’s sudden demise? Will Gretschel take his restaurant/bar operation elsewhere? Where will his catering operation be based? What’s next for the sliver of a spot in downtown Silver Spring? Is the Half Moon the latest small, locally-owned victim of “Silver Sprung”?
Who knows? “That’s all I want to say right now,” Gretschel says. “There are some loose ends to tie up.” He promises to reveal more when the paperwork is finalized.
ADDENDUM, 5/2: Mary O’Brien, a waitress and bartender at the Half Moon when the barbecue joint shut down on Sunday, called on Tuesday afternoon to provide more details about the closing. She said that Marc Gretschel sold the Half Moon’s long-term lease to a new tenant, even though the restaurant and bar was still marginally profitable.
“Marc was looking to do this for awhile,” says O’Brien, who nonetheless was informed of the decision just four days before the closing. The restaurant “was a success—just not enough to justify working 12- to 18-hour days.” The hours were becoming a drag for Gretschel, O’Brien says, because the owner/cook/music booker/stock manager was doing “everything but serving the customers.” She and Gretschel were the only full-time employees at Half Moon in the months leading up to the closing.
O’Brien says the Gretschel still owns the Half Moon name, but she doesn’t know if he will try to reopen the brisket-and-rib joint in another location. Nor does she know who bought out the Half Moon’s lease. Aside from catering under the Half Moon name with the smoker he retained from the restaurant, Gretschel plans to continue booking bands for other venues, O’Brien says.
The waitress and barkeep’s own future is considerably less certain. After working off and on at the Half Moon for the last five years, O’Brien doesn’t know where her next check will come from—and she says she’s not in the position to conduct an extended search for a new gig in the hospitality industry. “I got bills to pay,” says the 45-year-old O’Brien, who’s been working in bars and restaurants since age 17.
Photo courtesy of Dave Nuttycombe