The details surrounding a distillery pub called District Distilling Company coming to 14th and U streets NW have been scarce from the get-go. News of the venture first arrived about a year ago when the Washington Business Journal picked up on plans submitted to the D.C. Zoning Administrator. And then… silence. The distillery pub’s website at the time said “coming soon – 2013.” Whoever was involved in the business remained unknown.
Then in June, restaurant publicist Victoria Michael sent out a short press release about the distillery pub, which is now slated to open in early 2016. But Michael claimed that even she didn’t know who the owners were—their attorney hired her only to send out the announcement. In October, after following up about the owners again, Michael said she hadn’t heard anything more since June. She also said she signed a non-disclosure agreement and couldn’t even share the lawyer’s name.
Meanwhile, rumors have been swirling about who’s behind the place. New Columbia Distillers founders Michael Lowe and John Uselton say District Distilling’s architect came to visit them and scope out their facility’s setup. “We asked the architect [about the owners], and he said, ‘They’re not disclosing,'” Lowe says. Uselton adds that the distillery pub plans to use stills from the same company they used, but the U.S. rep for that company likewise knew nothing. “It’s very weird,” Uselton says.
A settlement agreement between District Distilling Company and neighborhood groups leads to at least one person who’s involved: Said Haddad, who’s managed and bartended a number of U Street-area restaurants over the years, including The Brixton and now Compass Rose. Haddad says he will be the general manager of the distillery pub’s restaurant and bar and act as the “face” of the business. He also helped design the place, which is poised to become the first distillery pub in D.C.
Said says the owners, who are new to the industry and lobbied to create the distillery pub permit in D.C., want to remain anonymous. But really, he says, there’s no sexy secret to it.
“It’s not going to be, like, Brad Pitt,” he says. “They’re just a couple guys who don’t really want their names out there.”