When brothers Ian and Eric Hilton announced last September they’d be closing seven of their bars, it was a huge gut-punch to DC’s food and drink scene. “We have depleted our resources while fighting a great, yet unsustainable battle to save the jobs of our employees and our businesses,” they wrote in a statement at the time.
Six months later, though, things are looking brighter. Ian Hilton says the group is planning to reopen most of its shuttered spots. Taco spot El Rey ended up never closing thanks to an outpouring of community support. Echo Park began serving pizza and beer again yesterday. American Ice Company and the Brixton will both reopen this spring. (The latter will return to its roots as “the big neighborhood pub on the corner.” Says Hilton: “I’m never returning to the days of the Brixton becoming a nightclub.”) Cocktail haven the Gibson will resurface in a new location (details to come). Subterranean arcade bar Player’s Club will return, though it’s not clear when. Marvin remains the only question mark.
“Some of the assistance really made it possible,” Hilton says, referencing DC’s Bridge Fund and the federal government’s Paycheck Protection Program. “Without it, and a lot of back and forth with landlords, it definitely would not have been possible.”
Meanwhile, the Hiltons are expanding operations at some of their other businesses that have had to constrict during the pandemic. Georgetown’s Chez Billy Sud is operating its dining room and patio again. Arlington French bistro Cafe Colline, which opened during the pandemic, debuts indoor dining today. Mosaic District’s Parc de Ville will add a roof deck in the next few weeks. An outdoor beer and wine garden pop-up at the Kennedy Center called Victura Park will return later this month with the help of chef Erik Bruner-Yang and other guest chefs. Meanwhile, an offshoot of Falls Church brewpub Solace Outpost—a collab between the Hiltons and other industry vets—will be coming to Navy Yard this summer with a big outdoor space.
“There’s nothing I can look back and say it was a good decision or a bad decision,” Hilton says. “If I could do it all over again, part of me is like we should have just moth-balled everything in March of last year and called it a day, but it’s been good that we were able to keep people employed. I’ve spent enough time second guessing myself to even try to do a retrospective.”