Former Chads Owner Says It Was Time for Him To Retire

Joe McGuinness owned the restaurant for 18 years—before selling it to group including Tony Kornheiser, Maury Povich and Gary Williams


Joe and Kathleen McGuinness at the wedding of a Chads patron

provided photo

Behind this week’s announcement that the Friendship Heights restaurant Chads had been purchased by a group that included three regional celebrities was the longtime former owner of the restaurant.

Potomac resident Joe McGuinness, 71, owned the restaurant that was also known as Chadwicks for 18 years and was previously a part-owner since it was founded in 1982. He said in an email Wednesday that he sold the restaurant to talk show host Maury Povich, ESPN personality Tony Kornheiser, former University of Maryland basketball coach Gary Williams and businessman Alan Bubes because he decided to retire.

Kornheiser, host of the sports talk show Pardon The Interruption, announced on his podcast Tuesday morning the new owners plan to renovate the restaurant, add some new menu items and install a podcast recording studio inside the space. He also said they plan to keep the restaurant’s employees—including the popular bartender, Beaver.

Kathleen McGuinness, Joe’s wife, said he’s always been a low-key guy who was ever-present at the restaurant for the past 35 years.

“I know women use 6,000 words a day, men use 2,000 and Joe uses 12,” McGuinness said. She said Joe worked daily, typically from 6 a.m. to 2 p.m., at the restaurant. “When he was younger, he stayed until the bar closed.”

In his email, Joe McGuinness wrote he’s from New Jersey and came to Washington, D.C., to attend Georgetown University. A university alumni website notes he graduated in 1968.

At first he held a small ownership stake in Chadwicks before buying out partners Mike Kirby and Tom Russo. The three owners also had two other restaurants—one is the Chadwicks that’s still open in Old Town Alexandria while the other was in Georgetown in the space that later became Mr. Smith’s.

During the time McGuinness has owned the Friendship Heights restaurant he has seen the neighborhood change as new buildings rose and new businesses moved in.

He wrote the restaurant’s customers have long included reporters and publicists—something Kornheiser noted when he announced Tuesday he and the others had bought the restaurant.

“It’s a big neighborhood crowd, too, with lots of people bringing their children,” Kathleen McGuinness, who handled marketing for the restaurant, said. “It really was a Cheers-type of bar. All the bartenders really knew your name and would make sure you got in an Uber or a cab if you had too much to drink. People who worked there really made it special—Joe was a big personality and he was always there.”

The restaurant hosted a class reunion for the Georgetown University class of 1968, which brought former President Bill Clinton to the restaurant with his entourage. Kathleen said Clinton has been in the restaurant twice in the last six years.

Joe McGuinness with former President Bill Clinton. Provided photo.

She said the restaurant needs an infusion of money to update it, but it’s weathered the local restaurant market better than others. She said about 10 restaurants have opened near Chads that later failed.

One of Joe McGuinness’s favorite stories is about famed former Washington Redskins running back John Riggins: When Riggins came into the restaurant after doing a show at a nearby news studio, McGuinness offered to buy him a drink and they ended up trading shots of peppermint Schnapps.

McGuinness said he knew Williams, Povich and Kornheiser as customers at Chads before they decided to buy the restaurant. He said he also had a business relationship with Bubes’ former company, Linens of the Week. McGuinness wrote he was happy the high-profile D.C. figures were buying the restaurant.

He wrote in his email that he'll miss mixing with the customers at the restaurant, but won't "miss having to write checks to the D.C. government."

As for whether McGuinness will fully retire, he said he plans to take it easy for a while and then get a job.

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