PX, a nationally recognized speakeasy in Old Town Alexandria that’s widely credited with lighting the fuse for D.C.’s exploding craft cocktail scene, will close after almost 13 years of business. Owner Todd Thrasher released a statement today announcing he opted not to renew the lease, and the tiny, 25-seat venue will serve its last round on Saturday, July 27.
“Rent is just expensive,” Thrasher tells Eater, “and you know it’s the kind of life cycle of a restaurant or a bar, it’s very busy at the beginning and it goes through a time where it’s just not as busy anymore and it just doesn’t make senses to keep it going financially. That’s pretty much it.”
Thrasher has his hands full while processing thousands of pounds of sugar and molasses at his rum distillery and three-level tiki bar on the Southwest waterfront. Thrasher also directs the ambitious hotel bar at Brothers & Sisters, Erik Bruner-Yang’s Asian-American place in the lobby of the Line hotel in Adams Morgan.
PX opened in 2006 as a part of Eat Good Food Group, the collective spearheaded by chef Cathal Armstrong that included (now-closed) Restaurant Eve and opened Kaliwa at the Wharf.
Washingtonian reported that EGFG will also close Eamonn’s Dublin Chipper, PX’s adjoining fish and chips shop.
Thrasher’s success at Restaurant Eve and PX grew his national profile, helping him gather enough clout to open Tiki TNT and Potomac Distilling Company late last year. At Restaurant Eve, Thrasher was a three-time semifinalist for the James Beard Foundation’s Outstanding Wine & Spirits Professional award. In 2012, PX was a semifinalist for a national Beard award given to the nation’s Outstanding Bar Program. He was also named Eater D.C.’s 2012 Bartender of the Year.
Thrasher is adamant that PX was one of the first speakeasies, noting that it opened before acclaimed New York bars Please Don’t Tell (PDT) and Death & Co. Thrasher says PX was also credited with helping start the movement in Robert Simonson’s book, A Proper Drink: The Untold Story of How a Band of Bartenders Saved the Civilized Drinking World.
Thrasher says that people who accused PX of being pretentious weren’t familiar with the burgeoning trend.
“I don’t think people knew what it was,” Thrasher says. “I never liked the idea of pretense. At that moment in my life, that’s what I wanted to go drink, and that’s what I made.”
He went on to describe PX as “a refuge from everyday life where you could get away from everything.”
In the lead-up to opening Tiki TNT, Thrasher talked about how he wanted to focus his attention on a place with a wider customer base. As opposed to PX, which required reservations for most seats and enforced a dress code, Tiki TNT serves frozen rum and cokes in a can and tater tots topped with tropical fruit.
In between fixing umbrellas on the rooftop deck of Tiki TNT and plotting ways to bottle coconut-infused rum, Thrasher says he’s happy to move on.
“Everyone asks me if I’m sad,” Thrasher says. “I’m not sad. It was awesome. It was a great run. It was fabulous. Everything has a time and a place. Honestly, if the rent was less, if the rent hadn’t crept up over 13 or 14 years, I would still do it.”