District Distilling Co. has been quiet about its future as its building went dark last month at 14th and U streets, Northwest. Now the rumors are confirmed: The distillery will relocate elsewhere in DC within the coming year.
District Distilling opened in 2016 as the city’s first distillery-pub after pushing for legislation in DC to legalize hybrid restaurant and booze production facilities. But ultimately, the dining room was not as successful as the owners had hoped. They completely closed the restaurant in September and transformed the space for private events. But with such prime real estate, it ultimately didn’t make sense to keep such a massive space.
“As you’ve seen in the past month, there’s been over a dozen restaurants close. It was just an added complication to the distillery,” says director of sales and marketing Nicholas Lewis. “People weren’t really getting to know us for our restaurant, so we just wanted to focus everything in one area.”
The distillery closed in mid-March, but the announcement has been prolonged due to legal discussions with the landlord “about how we part ways,” Lewis says. “They haven’t raised their rents….Unofficially, we did ask the landlord to renegotiate rent and they said no.”
The company is now looking at three potential new locations in DC where it can expand its spirits production. (Lewis declined to share which neighborhoods.) The new facility won’t be a distillery/pub, but the goal is to have a tasting room where visitors can try products in cocktails.
In the meantime, District Distilling will continue to sell its existing spirits (vodka, rum, gin, whiskey) and release new ones that have already been made and bottled. The distillery has been storing a surplus of products at a facility in Sterling called International Cellars. Since the beginning, most of the distillery’s barrels have been aged in Kentucky and Wisconsin instead of DC, and it willl continue that process even after District Distilling finds a new home.
“Real estate in the DMV isn’t the best to be keeping it here,” Lewis says. “And also, to be honest, being in the city or along the Mid-Atlantic, it doesn’t have the best variations of temperatures for us to store our barrels here anyway. We do have a couple of test barrels dotted around in Virginia, DC, and Maryland that we’ve left there to see how they do.”
Even though the distillery is currently closed, you wouldn’t know it from the spirit release schedule. District Distilling debuted a new version of its C&O Tradesman Whiskey, finished in French rhum casks, two weeks ago. Still to come this summer: a small-cask wheat whiskey and a limited-edition Backroom whiskey finished in apple-brandy casks.