Remembering Tombs, 1789 founder Richard Joseph McCooey

Restaurateur Richard J. McCooey, founder of Georgetown neighborhood institutions 1789 restaurant and The Tombs, died August 6. He was 83. 

A well-known figure in the Georgetown community and throughout the city, McCooey’s restaurants entertained not only Georgetown students, faculty, staff and alumni, but also U.S. presidents, congressmen and other government officials.

In an obituary, the Washington Post noted that “as a freshman at Georgetown University in 1948, Richard McCooey walked the nearby streets and dreamed that someday he would run a student rathskeller and restaurant within easy reach of the campus.” He went on to do just that, opening 1789, named in honor of the year Georgetown was founded, and popular student hangout The Tombs, named from a line in a T.S. Eliot poem,  in 1962.

As a Georgetown undergraduate, McCooey was known as President of the Yard, a precursor to today’s student government leadership. He was awarded the John Carroll Award, the alumni association’s highest honor, in 1966.

In July of 2012, McCooey celebrated the 50th anniversary of his restaurants at the adjacent F. Scott’s, an art-deco-style nightclub turned private event venue that he also founded. In 1986, he sold all of his locations to another Washington, D.C., institution--Clyde’s Restaurant Group. He was a consultant for Clyde’s before opening his own restaurant consulting business. The influence of his love of literature, history and art was seen in the restaurant design work he did.

He is survived by his wife, Karen, who was also his business partner in his restaurant consulting firm.