Around Town

Bunnyman Brewing’s Lorton move approved, set to open next year at site of the local legend

Bunnyman Brewing is hopping on over to Lorton’s Workhouse Arts Center next year.

The Fairfax-based brewery got an official go-ahead from the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors on Tuesday (Dec. 6) to take over a nearly 4,700-square-foot space at the county-owned Workhouse Arts Campus in Lorton.

This will be the brewery’s second location and is expected to open by fall 2023, co-owner Sam Gray told FFXnow. The brewery will be in Building W-13, one of two buildings on the campus that are currently being refurbished.

“The addition of an on-site food and beverage retailer is expected to assist with placemaking and support the vibrant arts and cultural programming and education that [the Workhouse Arts Foundation] provides throughout the site,” the staff report says.

The county is still seeking a tenant for Building W-15, the other component of the $6.3 million renovation project.

The expansion marks Bunnyman Brewing’s return to the former Lorton Reformatory grounds where the story behind its legendary namesake began.

According to one version of the Bunnyman legend, in the early 20th century, a bus carrying patients from a nearby asylum in Clifton to Lorton crashed. The authorities re-apprehended every inmate, save one who was never found, leaving only a trail of gutted rabbits as clues.

One Halloween night years later, teens hanging out under the Colchester Overpass near Fairfax Station saw a flash of light. The next morning, police found the kids strung up and gutted, just like the bunnies left by the inmate.

While that version of the story is completely untrue, there was a man possibly dressed in a bunny suit who terrorized a few residents in the early 1970s.

Gray told FFXnow last month that the brewery’s name is an homage to his hometown.

“It’s the legend we grew up with that was purely Fairfax. Anyone that grew up in the area could relate,” he said. “We are proud of our area and it was the most relevant, fun historical symbol that made sense.”

At Tuesday’s board meeting, Gray made clear that his team did research before choosing its name, which isn’t intended as a celebration of morbid happenings.

“We are not celebrating a murderer, but the story is one we all grew up with. The name is a lot for us,” he said.

He also noted that, while working as a Fairfax County firefighter, he responded to a number of calls at the Lorton Prison, and it still leaves an impression on him.

“When I go into the Workhouse Arts Center, I still see it as a prison. It’s taken a little while to get the flutters out of my stomach,” he said. “I did respond to the prison quite a few times back in the day and it was a scary situation every single time. There was no getting used to it.”

The lease for Bunnyman Brewery received unanimous approval from supervisors and was “wholeheartedly” endorsed by the head of the nonprofit Workhouse Arts Foundation, which manages the arts center.

“The two Bunnyman co-owners…have already shown the Workhouse Arts Center, by participating in our annual haunt event, that they will be great partners as we collectively work together to ensure the full activation of the campus,” WAF President Leon Scioscia said.

The initial 10-year lease is expected to generate about $109,000 a year for the county, after “the initial 18-month rent abatement period has ended,” per the staff report. Gray says the abatement means the brewery will pay no rent for the first three months and only half its rent for the next 15 months.

The county is expected to hand over the property to Bunnyman Brewing in March. At that time, the brewery will make some of its own improvements with the hope of opening the space to the public about six months later — just in time for the spooky season.

“We hope to be able to host a couple soft openings by September 2023 and fully open the doors by Halloween 2023,” Gray said.