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Loyal Following Helps Keep New District Brewing Co. Afloat

(Updated at 6:15 p.m.) Across from the Shirlington Dog Park, locals can be found sitting at high top tables, drinking crafted beer and enjoying each other’s company again for, in some cases, the first time in over a year.

New District Brewing Co. General Manager David Warren tells ARLnow that his customers have said this brewery, which opened in 2016, is one of the only places where they felt safe coming to throughout the pandemic.

“Every day I hear someone say ‘I haven’t been to a bar in a year a half,'” Warren said. “People would say, ‘I don’t go to bars or restaurants but I come here.’ They felt safe coming to us as we adhere strictly to safety guidelines. They see us running around with isopropyl alcohol, sanitizing everything.”

Warren says traffic to the 2709 S. Oakland Street warehouse taproom has somewhat been able to return to pre-coronavirus levels without the brewery suffering too much of a financial loss. And now, the brewery is back to hosting weekly trivia and live music, and has two big events on the horizon.

He credits the establishment’s intense cleaning regimen, which predates the pandemic, as beer has to be made in highly sanitized conditions.

“If there’s one thing brewers know how to do, it’s sanitize,” said Warren. “Even one little bacteria cell can ruin a batch of beer, so sanitation has to be completely airtight because other things float around in the air.”

Since the bar reopened its taproom room in mid-June last year, Warren said “business has been gradually improving.”

After capacity restrictions lifted at the end of May, the brewery on Four Mile Run has been able to return to its original 136 person capacity, after only being able to host about 30 people at a time to maintain six feet of distance between patrons.

While the pandemic forced Warren to close the taproom and turn people away over the past year, he says the pandemic has helped strengthen loyalty to the bar among employees and the community.

“It’s been all hands on deck,” he said. “Everybody does everything. Every one of my employees here has some kind of brewing experience. Everyone will chip in around everything.”

Fans came to the rescue at the height of the pandemic to ensure their favorite spot stayed afloat.

“We have a lot of support from the community. It’s been great. A lot of people would come here out of their way and buy a four pack just to help us,” he said.

One thing that generated some extra cash is private rentals.

According to a local Facebook group, New District has become an occasional private event space for those looking to host a gathering on a budget. A poster said the brewery has an affordable minimum beer purchase for rentals and — because there’s no kitchen — they allow food trucks. Another said she brought her own food, and called this arrangement the “best option we found.”

Now, New District is back at hosting weekly public events, including local art displays on Wednesdays, trivia nights on Thursdays at 7 p.m. and live music on Fridays at 6 p.m. Warren says these events have been helping draw crowds back to the bar.

New District also has two big local appearances this month and in September.

Next Wednesday through Sunday (Aug. 18-22), New District is hosting a beer garden at the Arlington County Fair, held at the Thomas Jefferson Community Center and grounds at 3501 2nd Street S.

“We’re going to have live music, food trucks, trivia, [and] a rock carving class,” said Warren.

New District will also host its annual Valley Fest street festival — cancelled last year because of the pandemic — on Sunday, Sept. 26 from noon-5 p.m. The brewery has hosted the free community event — which highlights the hyperlocal arts scene along Four Mile Run — since 2017, excluding last year.

“We shut down the block and have a big event here,” said Warren, adding that the event will include, “art vendors, food trucks, [and] live music.”

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