Longtime Austin brewpub NXNW permanently closes because of coronavirus
The 20-year-old North Austin brewpub North by Northwest has permanently shut down as a result of lost revenue from the coronavirus pandemic — and the uncertainty of when it would be able to open again.
Owner Davis Tucker, a pioneer of the city’s craft beer industry, confirmed the closure Thursday, after employees had been told. He said he had decided to go ahead and shutter rather than drag it out, given that there’s no timeline on when bars and restaurant dining rooms will be able to host customers again.
“It’s been a great run, but we felt like we had to make the call sooner rather than later,” he said. “We just don’t know how long (the city’s mandated closure) is going to last. We made the call now so our employees could move on in life.”
Tucker opened NXNW in 1999, the last of that decade’s brewpub boom and, ultimately, one of only two brewpubs to survive long-term. (The other is the 50-year-old Draught House Pub & Brewery, which added a brewing system to the site’s kitchen in the mid-1990s.) Tucker expanded the NXNW concept to far South Austin in 2014 but closed the Slaughter Lane site for good in early 2019, after construction in the area drove away business.
Before the coronavirus, things had been back to looking up for the brand he’d fostered for almost 21 years. NXNW had plans to expand to a more “taproom-focused” location and to take its beers outside of Austin, he said. The pandemic shelved those ideas, and now the business that has been at 10010 N. Capital of Texas Highway, near the Arboretum, is gone, too.
On March 17, the city mandated the closure of bars and restaurant dining rooms through May 1. A week later, a shelter-in-place order was given that was recently extended until May 8. Since mid-March, restaurants and breweries have been offering curbside pick-up.
For about a week, NXNW joined their ranks and sold food and beer to go. The takeout-only model didn’t prove sustainable, and the brewpub announced on social media it was ceasing operations on March 28, noting “we remain optimistic that at the appropriate time NXNW will again be a part of our community and a continued member of your favorite venues.”
Tucker is worried that selling to-go only won’t be viable for many restaurants much longer, and that additional places may join his in the “permanently closed” column.
But he doesn’t expect NXNW will be his last venture in the beer industry. Sometime in the future, whenever the virus has stopped wreaking havoc on daily life, he’ll work on opening a small brewery.
In the meantime, he has plenty of memories of NXNW to hold onto. The brewpub has been the site of many first dates, anniversary celebrations and other special events, and also held annual St. Patrick’s Day and Oktoberfest celebrations. What sticks in Tucker’s mind the most, however, are the ordinary moments of people laughing and talking while enjoying his beers.
“It’s a bittersweet good-bye, for sure,” he said. “We’ve had people from our opening days who still came in to see us.”