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Spotted in Jewish DC – 1831 Bar & Lounge

This week in #SpottedinJewishDC, we’ve discovered an awesome bar steps away from our favorite soup-spot (what up Soupergirl). Some reasons this bar is worthy of the highly revered “Spotted in Jewish DC” title: 1) Really inexpensive happy hour prices; 2) Steampunk inspired ambiance; 3) The owners are three Jewish brothers who are natives of the DC suburbs. Read this exclusive interview with 1831 Bar & Lounge’s Co-Founder and Owner Sean Chreky – and then go say hi in person!

Allie: How did you wind up opening the bar?

Sean: I come from an entrepreneurial family. My mom had her own dance school, my dad started his own hair salon, and many of my extended family members were hairstylists. I was meant to be a hairstylist (ie: Don’t Mess with the Zohan). Instead of becoming a hairdresser, I got my masters in finance and was going to work in investment banking. But deep down, I wanted to own my own business and be my own boss. And my father always taught me I should follow my own dreams. When my brothers and I saw this amazing space available in DC in 2015, we jumped on this opportunity to buy the space and transform it into a bar. Now, my two brothers and I are owners of 1831 Bar & Lounge! They say doing business with family is never a good idea, and we definitely have our moments, but ultimately we’re happy to be doing it.

Allie: What sets your bar apart from the others?

Sean: Well, we have a really inexpensive happy hour menu. Since we started 1831 on a shoestring budget, we wanted to do whatever we could to create buzz around it, and figured having really cheap drinks and food -$1 beers, $4 glass of wine, $6 Tito’s – would do the trick. We also specialize in hosting events, whether it’s a birthday party, or a corporate or nonprofit event.

Ambiance-wise, we’re trying to be a steampunk-inspired bar – like in the 1800s when there was industrial steam-powered machinery, a little bit like the train time machine in Back to the Future Part 3. We’re looking forward to eventually having our staff wear steampunk outfits.

In the future, we will keep the bar & lounge as is and start a nightclub by taking over three more levels of the building.

Allie: What advice do you have for someone dreaming of opening up their own business?

Sean: Before you do it, know that it’s really what you want. It takes a lot of work, late nights, and the bar industry can be a tough one. Make sure that whatever business you are planning to start is the industry you really want to be in. Try working in that industry before you start your own business, so you get a feel for it. And have a niche. You need to be able to carve out your own unique space and stand out from the competition. Oh, and make sure you have more than enough money saved if things don’t go as planned.

Allie: What do you like to do for fun outside of work?

Sean: Well, because I invested everything in the bar, and it takes time for a bar to become profitable, I had to get another job during the day. So, my fun time is very limited. But, if I did have time to spare, I’d spend it by the water. My brothers and I love going to the beach, scuba diving, and spearfishing. I love watching football – we’re Ravens, Redskins, and Miami Dolphin fans. If you come to 1831 on Sundays, we have Redskins games playing, and are also the official DC bar for the University of Miami Hurricanes and the DC International Film Festival.

Allie: How do you connect with your Jewish identity?

Sean: I have a deep cultural connection, and care a lot about Jewish tradition. I went on Birthright Israel, and we grew up going to Congregation Har Shalom. I also love Jewish foods – Matzo ball soup has a soft spot in my heart. I used to live in New York City, and there were real, authentic Jewish diners where I had some of the best matzo ball soup of my life – like 2nd Ave Deli.

 

 

The views and opinions expressed in this blog and on this website are solely those of the original authors. These views and opinions do not necessarily represent those of the organization GatherDC, the GatherDC staff, the GatherDC board, and/or any/all contributors to this site.

Spotted in Jewish DC – One Eight Distilling

Whiskey lovers rejoice!

Recently #SpottedinJewishDC is one of the finest whiskey, vodka, and gin distilleries around – One Eight Distilling. Pour yourself a tall gin and tonic (or favorite drink of your choosing) and enjoy this 1:1 interview with One Eight’s co-founder, Alex Laufer, who left a thriving career in biotechnology to open the distillery.

Allie: When you were growing up, what did you dream you’d do as an adult?20161103_OneEight5887.jpg

Alex: From an early age I loved exploring nature (mucking about a salt marsh, checking out the creepy crawlies under a log in the forest, collecting shells), and dreamed I’d be a biologist when I grew up.

Allie: What is your favorite drink? Do you get to be a “taste-tester” for One Eight?

Alex: Very hard to pick one favorite drink. I enjoy many spirits, cocktails, beers, wines, ciders, etc. For cocktails, I tend to enjoy those that are balanced, yet are boozy, and often have bitter elements; such as a Negroni, Old-Fashioned, or Martini. All of the core staff members at One Eight are taste-testers. Whether we are making the “cuts” on the still run itself, tasting barrel pulls for blends and finishes, proof samples, or creative cocktails, the diversity of pallets and opinions leads to a better final product.

Pepsi & Alex Handshake_Lands End Farm_Sandi Moynihan.jpgAllie:  How did you come up with the idea to open One Eight Distilling? And also, where does the name come from?

Alex: One Eight’s co-founder, Sandy Wood, had the inspiration to open the distillery. It had come from discussions with another friend, a nagging desire to create a business, and early visits to other distilleries in the region. Sandy wrote a lengthy proposal email to me, asking me to partner with him and come on board as Head Distiller. After discussions with my family I agreed, and we dove in!

The name was also Sandy’s inspiration; as an attorney by training, he is familiar with our Constitution.  One Eight refers to Article One, Section 8, which- amongst several provisions-calls for the formation of the Nation’s capital. For us, One Eight demonstrates our pride to be crafting spirits here in Washington DC. I also love that One Eight could read as 18 or Chai (life in Hebrew).

1F6A8063.jpgAllie: Tell us the best – and most challenging – part of running your own distillery?

Alex: Crafting our spirits is my favorite part of the business. Many aspects of this part of the job are physically demanding and can become routine, but it is extremely satisfying when we have bottled 300 cases or filled 10 new barrels with whiskey for the future.

I also enjoy sharing our work with others, from giving a tasting at a local liquor store, or making cocktails with our spirits for friends and family at home.

Allie: Any new products coming out this year that you’re particularly excited about?

Alex: We released our Rock Creek Bourbon in September, and have been floored by the amazing reception it has been receiving. Our next release will be a collection of four beer-projects we have been working on for some time. For three of the spirits, we collaborated with local breweries, DC Brau and Hellbender. Stay tuned for a release next month!

Allie: Sounds like you’re pretty busy running a distillery, launching new products, and being a DC whiskey connoisseur…what do you like to do for fun outside of work?

Alex: First and foremost, outside of work, I love to spend time with my family; my wife, Jen and sons Jonas (12) and Abe (10). I enjoy cooking for them at home, taking time for hikes, bike rides, camping, or the beach and attending the boys’ various baseball games, swim meets and concerts.

Alex and the team at Tales of the Cocktail.png

Allie: How do you connect to Jewish life in DC?

Alex: My family and I are members at Tifereth Israel on 16th St. It is a lovely, diverse congregation with great local history (last year marked TI’s centennial), and an amazing leader in Rabbi Siedel. The congregation is very active, and has provided us with meaningful opportunities to cook and serve food at local shelters.

Allie: What is your favorite Jewish holiday and how do you celebrate it?

Alex: Tough to pick just one, as TI can really party for Purim and Simchat Torah!  But, honestly, I love the Passover seder the most. We combine elements from seders Jen and I attended growing up and are making our own tradition. We often host family and friends, so I can cook several of the traditional dishes (except Jen makes the best matzah ball soup!).

The views and opinions expressed in this blog and on this website are solely those of the original authors. These views and opinions do not necessarily represent those of the organization GatherDC, the GatherDC staff, the GatherDC board, and/or any/all contributors to this site.