Wednesday, Aug. 29, 2007

Wheaton bar cooking up a new look?

Barnaby’s closes its doors to make way for new Greek restaurant run by the same owners

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Barnaby’s Sports Pub and Restaurant, a Wheaton business since 1973, closed last week, but the owner said he hopes to reopen with a fresh look.

Leo Mathios, owner of Barnaby’s, located at 2415 University Blvd., said he is working out negotiations with his landlord, David Aaronson, while also working toward remodeling the bar and restaurant into a Greek restaurant.

Aaronson was not available for comment before deadline.

Maria Papaheraklis, a former waitress at Barnaby’s, said Monday that ever since the smoking ban was put into effect in Montgomery County back in 2003, the bar had suffered. She said the Greek restaurant concept would be a good alternative for the large space Barnaby’s occupies.

‘‘I’m really excited about the new idea,” she said.

On Barnaby’s front door Monday, there were no signs explaining why the restaurant was closed, but there was one sign, which stated ‘‘Lucia’s is open.”

Lucia’s Italian Delicatessen is located just a few doors down in the same shopping complex. Charles Hepburn, one of Lucia’s owners, said that Mathios put the sign up to help nearby businesses while he was closed.

Hepburn said that he has never had a problem with the landlord, but understood that lease negotiations might be a lengthy process. He predicted that it would be a few months before the restaurant was open.

Joel Schwartz, a Silver Spring resident who has been a patron of Barnaby’s for more than five years, said he would like the bar to continue to be a part of the restaurant.

‘‘For a pub, it had excellent food and excellent prices,” Schwartz said.

Wil White, who works security at Chuck Levin’s Washington Music Center in Wheaton, said he has been a regular customer at Barnaby’s for about nine years and even met his fiancée there.

‘‘It reminds me of a Baltimore neighborhood bar,” White said. ‘‘... Within five minutes, everyone knows your name and everyone is giving you a hard time and good fun.”

He said bars like that are hard to find. Many of the old Barnaby’s crowd can now be found having their drinks at Savannah’s, a bar and restaurant on Connecticut Avenue in Kensington, White said.

However, White said he would go back to Barnaby’s if and when it reopens as a Greek restaurant, especially if Maria Mathios’ cheesecake is on the menu.

‘‘If they have her cheesecake, I will absolutely be going there,” she said. ‘‘It’s the best cheesecake I’ve had.”