Anxo, DC’s first cidery and pinxto bar, will close its flagship location in Truxton Circle after July 18, the week of its five year anniversary. Despite launching an entire farmshare membership and delivery service during the pandemic, and creating viral political cocktails like the Cruz in Cancun, the bar was still only able to do about 50 percent of its normal sales over the past year. Co-owner Sam Fitz says government aid helped keep staff employed and extend the business’s life, but ultimately it wasn’t enough.
“We were asked to pay rent in full, and that was not something we could afford, so we have been at odds [with our landlord] for the majority of the pandemic,” Fitz says of the 300 Florida Ave. NW property. “When the Mayor’s orders no longer protected us from eviction, it made it so we had to come to an agreement. And the only option that we were offered was to vacate the property in order to terminate our lease.”
Meanwhile, Anxo’s Brightwood Park tasting room and production facility will remain open. In fact, the team now has plans to build out a full kitchen and expand indoor seating. The site has a light menu for now, drawing from products in its farmshare boxes (which will continue to be available). Chef and partner Alex Vallcorba departed during the pandemic, but Anxo is looking to do some food pop-ups this summer. The full renovation aims to be complete by the end of the year. In the meantime, the outpost has an outdoor “cider garden” (with beer and cocktails too) as well as its indoor bar.
Fitz says all of the Truxton Circle staff have been offered jobs at Brightwood. The business was forced to layoff all its employees at the start of the pandemic, but eventually rehired about a third back. The company also switched to a no-tip system last year, relying on a 22-percent service charge instead. Still, most of the staff who came back are now on salary with health and other benefits. Anxo is looking to give back to its Brightwood Park neighborhood too and will be donating two percent of of its alcohol sales toward programs in the community. The goal is to raise at least $10,000 in the first year.
You’ll also still be able to get cans of Anxo’s sour and funky ciders in grocery stores and markets. Despite initially losing about 70 percent of its accounts nationwide when restaurants and bars suddenly closed last spring, Anxo’s wholesale business slightly grew from 2019 to 2020. “There was definitely a period of time when sales were down massively and it kind of seemed overwhelming trying to think about how to even go about trying to regrow them,” Fitz says. But direct-to-consumer business, with cans mailed to costumers across 40 states, grew exponentially, and retail alcohol sales have boomed. “It’s probably pretty well noted that people consumed more alcohol during the pandemic,” explains Fitz.
Anxo is also working to expand into brandy made from single apple varietals. The team will make its own cider as a base, then have it distilled by a local distillery. Some will then be aged for up to three years. They also plan to infuse some of the spirit with foraged botanicals to make their own gin. The products, which will be ready in early 2022, will then become the centerpiece of Anxo’s cocktail program headed by general manager Jade Aldrighette. Think brandy subbed in for vodka to make martinis and other brandy twists on your favorite cocktails.
“The majority of all brandy in the world is cheap and tastes terrible, and there’s a lot of bad reputations for brandy,” Fitz says. One exception, he’s found, is Calvados—brandy made in Normandy, France. “I’ve always wondered why there’s one place that can make brandy so great and other places really haven’t tried to do that. I got it in my head that maybe the world’s best apple brandy is nothing more than picking out the best apples. Our mid-Atlantic apples have some qualities that I really and truly believe we can make spirits that will be world renowned in a category that simply hasn’t been explored.”