Credit: ANXO

One in five Americans will confront mental illness at some point in their lives, according to the National Alliance on Mental Illness. That number is even higher within the hospitality industry for a litany of reasons, including the fact that drugs and alcohol can exacerbate and magnify mental health struggles. With May being Mental Health Month, one local bar is taking a unique approach to raising awareness about both mental health and substance abuse. 

Throughout the month, both ANXO Cidery & Pintxos Bar (300 Florida Ave. NW) and ANXO Cidery & Tasting Room (711 Kennedy St. NW) will offer a special “Mocktail Menu” featuring four $5 drinks whenever they’re open. See the menu below. During happy hour, if you buy one mocktail, you’ll get another one for free to give to someone you don’t know in the bar area. 

“We want to encourage community, and so often people go out to bars during happy hour and they sit on their phones or only talk to the one person they came in with,” says ANXO co-founder Rachel Fitz. She believes happy hour is an opportune time to connect with new people in person instead of on social media. “Mental health can stem from loneliness and lack of social contact.” 

That said, Fitz lets on that ANXO won’t enforce the stranger rule too vigorously. Happy hour in Truxton Circle runs Mondays through Fridays from 5 to 6:30 p.m. In Brightwood Park it runs Wednesdays through Fridays from 4 to 6 p.m.

ANXO will donate one dollar from each mocktail to Restaurant Recovery, a fledgling local nonprofit hoping to provide safe and confidential spaces for conversations about recovery and support without judgment among hospitality industry professionals and their support networks. “One hundred percent of money donated will go directly to industry people in need,” Fitz says. 

ANXO’s move to raise awareness about mental health and substance abuse comes as part of the company’s fresh focus on building community by highlighting societal issues they deem important. “Social work was my plan before restaurant life,” Fitz says. “The way Sam [Fitz] got me to be a part of ANXO was identifying how many opportunities there would be to connect and talk about bigger issues. We’re finally established enough to start putting energy into this.” The Truxton Circle location opened in 2016.

ANXO kicked things off with a slate of Women’s Month programming that included an artisan market, a collaboration dinner with chefs around the city, and various fundraisers. “It was so wildly successful,” she says. Not only were they able to make donations to charitable organizations but they were much busier than they were the previous March. 

There was also a cocktail competition in March. Bartender Jade Aldrighette won with her “Unshackled Apple” cocktail containing woman-made or woman-owned products: Eve’s Pommeau, Capitoline White Vermouth, and Amaro Nonino. Throughout May, proceeds from the cocktail will go to the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention. 

Look for ANXO to tackle LGBTQ rights and environmental sustainability in future months. 

ANXO’s special mocktail menu lands just as D.C. is buzzing about non-alcoholic drinks. On Saturday, the District played host to a roving, booze-free pop-up bar called Sans Bar. And, area cocktail bars are pouring more time and resources into creating thoughtful, non-alcoholic drink offerings. Carlie Steiner for example, is rolling out a spirit-free cocktail menu, “Sobrio,” that will launch at Himitsu in June and eventually at Dos Mamis.