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.
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.
(Updated at 2:10 p.m. on 11/13/2022 to correct zip code) It’s going to be a busy Saturday for Settle Down Easy Brewing. In addition to marking its fourth anniversary, the Merrifield area brewery will throw a grand opening party for its new Oakton restaurant and bar from noon to 8 p.m.
Replacing the shuttered Austins Big and Tall store in Hunter Mill Plaza at 2952E Chain Bridge Road, The Oakton Tasting Room is envisioned as not just a place to grab dinner and drinks, but as the kind of hangout spot that Settle Down Easy owner Frank Kuhns says is missing from Oakton — despite nearly 37,o00 people calling it home.
“In Oakton, there’s one zip code — 22124 — and we are going to promote that and the level of how proud you are to be a resident of Oakton,” Kuhns told FFXnow. “We’re going to create this family-friendly, energetic, exciting space for the residents of Oakton, but everyone is welcome of course. We want Oakton to have its own special place to call its own.”
A resident of Oakton himself, Kuhns started looking to expand Settle Down Easy at his wife’s suggestion. As COVID-19 pandemic restrictions eased, the couple was looking to go out for wine and appetizers but noticed a dearth of happy hour options in the area compared to nearby Vienna and Fairfax.
They hope The Oakton Tasting Room will fill that void, with a still-casual yet more refined ambiance than the industrial feel of Settle Down’s existing brewery at 2822 Fallfax Drive.
Opened in 2018, the Merrifield location serves food from a taco stand run by El Tio Tex-Mex Grill, but it primarily focuses on brewing, manufacturing five barrels of craft beer at a time to serve at a 40-seat bar.
The Oakton Tasting Room will be as much a restaurant as a brewery. Along with beer, it will offer wine, cider, and food for both lunch and dinner in a collaboration with local farmer’s market staple, The Fermented Pig, whose handcrafted meats and charcuterie boards made an impression at earlier events with Settle Down Easy.
An official menu isn’t available online yet, since it will likely evolve as the restaurant figures out what works and what doesn’t. However, all ingredients will be sourced from farms within a 100-mile radius, according to Kuhns.
“We want to be hypersensitive to our carbon footprint, we want to respectful to the environment, and we want to provide something to support other local businesses within 75 to 100 miles of our Oakton Tasting Room,” he said.
At nearly 4,000 square feet in size, the tasting room has the capacity for 150 customers. While there’s no outdoor seating at the moment, Kuhns says they hope to work with their landlord to add that next summer.
Nods to Oakton will range from black-and-white photos in the bathrooms showing the area’s history to a beer exclusively available at the tasting room called 123, after Route 123. Settle Down already serves a 2 Cloud 9 beer in Merrifield, reflecting its location near Route 29.
Expected to draw a sizable crowd, The Oakton Tasting Room’s grand opening will include a ribbon-cutting, cake at 3 p.m., and surveys of food and drink offerings. Merrifield patrons can get in on the excitement too: the first 50 customers who get a beer at both locations that day will receive a free gift and a commemorative coaster.
After inflation, supply chain issues and increased personnel expenses doubled the cost of the Oakton buildout from what was planned, Settle Down has no immediate plans to expand further, but the team is considering ways to help its Merrifield location stand out.
“I think probably in early 2024, we will look for the next venture for Settle Down Easy,” Kuhns said. “…That could be us doing a manufacturing warehouse. That could be a collaborative partnership with The Fermented Pig. We don’t know yet, but I know we want to continue to grow, so our plan in the next two years is to have more growth for our business in Virginia.”
Bunnyman Brewing is looking to return to the source of its legendary namesake by conjuring up a second location at Lorton’s Workhouse Arts Campus.
The Fairfax-based brewery is in the midst of negotiating a lease to move into 4,500 square-foot space at the county-owned Workhouse Arts Campus in Lorton, Bunnyman co-owner Sam Gray confirmed to FFXnow.
At yesterday’s meeting, the Board of Supervisors authorized a public hearing for Dec. 6 in regard to the county leasing property to the brewery.
If approved, this would be Bunnyman’s second location and Gray said the hope would be to open at 9514 Workhouse Way prior to Halloween 2023.
Over the summer, construction began on a $6.3 million renovation of two buildings at the Workhouse campus, which is on the National Register of Historic Places. Board Chairman Jeff McKay noted at the time that the county hoped a restaurant or brewery would move into those buildings.
Bunnyman is now poised to take over one of the refurbished spaces, known as Building W-13 — a fitting turn of events, since the brewery is named after a local legend that involves the Workhouse Arts Center, which was once the Lorton Reformatory.
As one version of the story goes, Clifton had an asylum in the early 20th century, but the small town’s residents didn’t like the idea of having patients there. So, it was shut down, and all the patients were put on a bus destined for the Lorton prison. However, the bus crashed before reaching its destination.
The authorities were able to reapprehend every inmate — except for one who was never found, leaving only gutted, half-eaten bunnies as clues.
One Halloween night years later, a group of kids hanging out under the Colchester Overpass near Fairfax Station supposedly saw a flash of light. The next morning, police find the kids gutted and half-eaten, like the bunnies left by the inmate.
There is likely no more than a kernel of truth to the story, but Gray — a retired Fairfax County firefighter — grew up with it and thought there was no better name for his brewery.
“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.”
The Building W-13 renovation is expected to wrap up soon, possibly letting Bunnyman’s ownership move into the space by February. If that happens, Gray says he could have the brewery open by next fall.
The plan is to brew drinks on-site, but on a smaller scale than its main location on Guinea Road in Fairfax. There will also be a “limited fun in-house food selection,” along with cider and possibly wine.
The lease with the county calls for an 18-month rent abatement and is expected to generate about $109,000 on a yearly basis for the public coffers, per a staff report.
As for the other renovated building on campus, dubbed Building W-15, the county continues “to seek a prospective tenant,” according to staff.
Gray is excited that his brewery has the opportunity to move into such a unique and historic space.
“We…believe the corridor and Laurel Hill/Lorton area is set for good future growth,” he said. “Part of the Bunnyman legend is the prison and we look forward to being part of that growth.”
Route 7 Traffic Shift Starts Today — “During the daytime hours on Aug. 11 and the overnight hours on Aug. 15, lane closures and temporary detours will be in place along Route 7 while crews continue paving operations at Carpers Farm Way and Colvin Run Road (east) and shift westbound Route 7 traffic to the new Difficult Run bridge.” [VDOT]
Pro-Nazi Social Media Posts Excluded from Reston Murder Trial — “A Virginia judge has ruled that prosecutors cannot tell the jury in an upcoming double-murder trial about the defendant’s social media posts containing praise for Adolf Hitler and support for Nazi book burnings and the neo-Nazi Atomwaffen Division, according to newly unsealed court records.” [The Washington Post]
Foust on Upcoming Retirement — “Deciding to step down in 2023 was not easy, but Supervisor John Foust (D-Dranesville) is ready to try some new challenges…He plans to stay involved on issues he cares about – such as affordable housing, economic development and climate change — and seek part-time consulting opportunities that ‘take advantage of the expertise that I’ve developed over the years.'” [Sun Gazette]
Salt Water Levels Rising in Region — “Once algae-pocked emblems of water pollution during the early 1970s, the Potomac River and the Occoquan Reservoir — the two sources of drinking water used by Fairfax Water to serve more than 2 million customers in Northern Virginia — are now trending in the wrong direction on salt, while the other contaminants have largely been cleaned up.” [The Washington Post]
Lorton Plant Gets Tech to Reduce Emissions — “Covanta, the company that runs the facilities, announced the installation of the pollution-fighting technology in a news release earlier this week, saying it has helped cut nitrogen oxide emissions by nearly 50%…The Fairfax County facility is located at its I-95 waste management complex in Lorton, and is one of the largest waste-to-energy facilities in the nation, according to the county.” [WTOP]
Report Grades Stream From Lake Barcroft — “Holmes Run, which flows through the Annandale area, is not in great condition, according to a report released Aug. 10 by the Audubon Naturalist Society…The report gives Holmes Run a grade of ‘moderately poor’ for climate, a rating of ‘good’ for access to nature, and ‘fair’ ratings for water quality and for biodiversity and habitat.” [Annandale Today]
California Firm Buys Local Defense Office Buildings — “The properties include six buildings at five locations in Fairfax County, Fairfax City and Loudoun County. They’re 96% leased to the likes of Lockheed Martin Corp. (NYSE: LMT), General Dynamics Corp. (NYSE: GD), The Boeing Co. (NYSE: BA) and Northrop Grumman Corp. (NYSE: NOC).” [Washington Business Journal]
Reston Turns Out for Trucks — “Thank you to all the families that came out for this year’s Totally Trucks event! For the past 22 years, Totally Trucks has delighted kids and adults alike, and this year was no different with more than 1000 people in attendance.” [Reston Association/Twitter]
Local Breweries Win Awards — “Vienna and Merrifield’s Caboose Brewing Company and Sweetwater Tavern scored several awards in the 2022 Virginia Craft Beer Cup, announced by the Virginia Craft Brewers Guild Monday. The Virginia Craft Beer Cup is the largest state competition of its kind in the U.S.” [Patch]
It’s Thursday — Possible drizzle in the morning. High of 85 and low of 73. Sunrise at 6:20 am and sunset at 8:10 pm. [Weather.gov]
Construction is underway on Fairfax County’s latest effort to remake the former Lorton Reformatory grounds into a destination for local residents and tourists.
Board of Supervisors Chairman Jeff McKay, Mount Vernon District Supervisor Dan Storck, and other local officials broke ground Friday (June 24) on a renovation of two buildings — designated W13 and W15 — that once housed prison inmates.
Located along Ox Road on the west side of the 52-acre site, now known as the Workhouse Arts Center, the 4,500-square-foot buildings will get their brick exteriors restored, while their interiors are overhauled for future commercial tenants. The county has its fingers crossed for a restaurant or brewery.
“We hope that it provides food and beverage opportunities and places for people to come here and spend more time, not just to stop off, but spend the better part of the day exploring the Workhouse,” McKay said. “These buildings will go a long way to doing that.”
Funded by a $6.3 million county investment, the project will also transform the open space between the buildings into a plaza with a boardwalk, raised walkways, seating areas, trees, and new paved paths along Ox Road.
It’s part of a larger plan to redevelop the former prison complex that has been in place since July 2004.
Opened to the public in September 2008, the Workhouse Arts Center now consists of 11 restored buildings that feature art galleries, studios, classrooms, facilities for ceramics and other crafts, and the Lucy Burns Museum, which delves into the Lorton prison’s history.
Additional amenities envisioned for the campus include housing for resident artists and performers, an amphitheater or music hall, a 450-seat theater, a 300-seat performing arts center, a 600-seat events center, and an outdoor garden with a greenhouse.
The W13 and W15 buildings have been approved for eating establishments with a total of 400 seats. Read More
Some of Fairfax County’s top breweries are rolling up their sleeves and joining a global campaign to support Ukrainian refugees displaced by the ongoing Russian invasion.
The “Brew for Ukraine” movement emerged in early March in response to a call for support from Pravda Brewery, a company based in Lviv, Ukraine, that has shifted to brewing Molotov cocktails for the country’s defense efforts.
Pravda released the recipes for its five most popular beers, now branded the “Victory beer series,” and encouraged other breweries to craft and sell them as a fundraiser.
Ornery Beer Company, which is based in Manassas with a restaurant and pub in Fairfax City, announced yesterday (Thursday) that it has partnered with seven other Northern Virginia breweries to produce Putin Huilo, a dry-hopped golden ale that takes its name from a common derogatory phrase for Russian President Vladimir Putin.
The participating Fairfax County breweries are Reston’s Lake Anne Brew House, Fair Winds Brewing Company in Lorton, and Caboose Brewing Company, which runs Caboose Commons in Merrifield and Caboose Tavern in Vienna.
Other collaborators include the Quattro Goombas Winery & Brewery in Aldie, Loudoun Brewing Company in Leesburg, the Manassas-based Tucked Away Brewing Company, and Winchester Brew Works.
According to a press release, the businesses gathered at Ornery’s production brewery in Manassas on March 25 to make the ale, and they will reunite on Wednesday (April 27) to package the resulting 8,000-plus cans of alcohol.
Putin Huylo will be on sale at all eight breweries starting on April 29. They will have four-packs of 16-ounce cans available for $20.
“A $20,000 donation, from the proceeds of our Putin Huylo collaboration, will be made on Monday May 2nd, split among World Central Kitchen-Ukraine, GlobalGiving Ukraine Crisis Relief Fund, and Pravda Brewery’s community efforts in Lviv, Ukraine,” Ornery said in the press release.
According to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, more than 5 million people have fled Ukraine since Feb. 24, the day Russian military forces crossed the border into their neighboring country. It’s considered the largest refugee crisis in Europe since World War II, and as of Wednesday (April 20), the UNHCR had recorded 5,264 civilian casualties.
Northern Virginia, including Fairfax County, recently wrapped up an almost month-long donation drive to collect coats and other winter clothes that will be delivered to refugees in Poland. Volunteers will sort and pack donations from across the region this weekend (April 22-23) at the Oakton Stake Center of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (2719 Hunter Mill Road).
After first setting its roots down in Falls Church, Settle Down Easy Brewing is planning to open a second location soon.
The brewery, which describes itself as a “nano brewing operation” on its website, plans to open up shop at 2952E Chain Bridge Road in Oakton.
A summer opening is anticipated, a business representative told FFXnow. The owner was not immediately available for comment.
Established in 2018, the brewery serves a variety of beer and food items. Its flagship beers include No. 1 Dry Hopped Kolsch, hop Was Phonic, and 2 Cloud 9.
The new location will be next to Oakton Chesapeake Cafe.
Photo via Settle Down Easy/Facebook
Statewide Tornado Drill Today — As part of its annual Severe Weather Awareness Week, Virginia will hold a statewide tornado drill at 9:45 a.m. today (Tuesday). The signal will be broadcast on NOAA Weather Radio and the Emergency Alert System, but there won’t be an actual tornado warning, which would mean that a twister is imminent or already underway. [Herndon Police/Twitter]
“Coastal” Tex-Mex Restaurant Planned for Tysons — “Long Shot Hospitality, which operates seafood-centric Salt Line and New Orleans hotspot Dauphine’s, is gearing up for a new project. Chef Kyle Bailey and partners will open an 11,000-square-foot Tex-Mex restaurant at the new Capital One Center in Tysons, Virginia, next year.” [Washingtonian]
Reston Company Carries Russian Propaganda — Reston Translator carries the FM radio signal in the D.C. area for the Capitol Heights station WZHF, one of just five U.S. stations that broadcasts Kremlin-approved “Radio Sputnik” programming. Despite Cold War-era tensions in the air, the owner of the South Reston-based company says he’s “a fervent believer in the First Amendment.” [The Washington Post]
Burke Brewery Toasts “Bunny Man” Legend — “The Fairfax folklore of the Bunny Man has brought scary stories to generations in Northern Virginia. Now, you can hear this wild tale over a pint of Bunnyman beer from a brewery celebrating this creepy story. Bunnyman Brewing, on Guinea Road in Fairfax, is just a few miles from a bridge at the center of an urban legend about a hatchet-wielding man in a bunny costume.” [NBC4]
Driver Evades Drinking-and-Driving Charge in Vienna — Vienna Police attempted to issue a summons to a driver who committed a traffic violation in the 2100 block of Chain Bridge Road at 1:53 a.m. on Feb. 25. The driver failed sobriety tests, but police learned that he had full diplomatic immunity. [Sun Gazette/Inside NoVA]
County Park Welcomes Baby Sheep — “It’s a sure sign of spring: baby animals at Frying Pan Farm Park! Fluffette delivered triplet rams (boys) on February 28. Lane delivered twins (one boy/one girl) on March 1. The sheep are all in Kidwell Barn and will go outside near the barn on nice days.” [Fairfax County Park Authority/Twitter]
Social Worker at Springfield School Awarded — “Claudia McDowell, a school social worker at Lynbrook Elementary School, has been named the 2022 National School Worker of the Year by the School Social Work Association of America (SSWAA) for her commitment to the profession and for positively impacting the lives of the students, families, and staff of the communities she serves.” [FCPS]
It’s Tuesday — Today is mostly sunny, with a high near 53. Northwest wind 7 to 11 mph, with gusts as high as 20 mph. The low will be around 37. The sun rose at 6:29 a.m. and will set at 6:09 p.m. [Weather.gov]