19 Oct 2020

New Hill East:

Goodbye, Wisdom, after 12 years in Hill East

Beloved Hill East bar Wisdom is closing after 12 years. Wisdom has been a personal favorite of mine and Erik became a friend over the years. When I asked him what he wanted to say, all he offered was, “Thank you.”

Send us your best Wisdom memories and to Erik, right back at you. Your bar was really, really great.

From the press release:

Friends, patrons, and gin heads-
it is with profound gratitude that I announce that Wisdom‘s closing its doors after exactly 12 years of business.

Erik Holzherr and a great pour. Photo courtesy of Erik Holzherr.

In 2003, I developed a dream-that quickly became an obsession – of opening a neighborhood cocktail lounge. The cocktail resurgence was in its infancy and at the time there were very few resources to learn about the craft. That challenge was part of the appeal. I spent a lot of time and energy researching and experimenting with flavors and recipes. After years of military service, I found a city and neighborhood to plant my feet and finally take a leap of faith.
In October 2008, I opened Wisdom – DC’s first cocktail bar. It was an uphill battle on many fronts. I opened an upscale cocktail bar in an underdeveloped part of Pennsylvania Ave SE during a recession, with a culture that had little knowledge of cocktails, and in a city that I knew almost no one in. Some would call that foolish and others would call it brave; I suppose the truth is somewhere in the middle. Chasing this dream sparked passion and purpose, which stoked the fire of persistence. We always had to fight for our customers and could never take them for granted. That is probably what made the bar so special.
DC and this neighborhood have changed so much since 2008 and continues to evolve; it can be easy to forget that cities are living things and never truly stagnant. It is awesome to see a new generation of establishments backed by an even stronger community grow up around us. I am excited and proud to see how high it will climb.
This is not the conclusion I had envisioned for Wisdom. Community is needed most during times of crisis and this pandemic is no exception. I regret that we were not able to continue serving our community safely during a time when the public house would seem like an ideal remedy.
I wish I could throw a big blowout closing party for all our regulars and staff throughout the years. Know that I am eternally grateful for your patronage. I was lucky to take my passion for cocktails and gin and share that with tens of thousands. I’ve had the opportunity to be creative every day and somehow figured out how to make a living out of it – many people are not as fortunate.
Wisdom was more than a business or a bar. Friendships have been discovered and relationships blossomed. We have hosted international distillers, spirit tastings, community meetings, photo shoots, dance parties, fundraisers, book premiers, debates, belly dancers, musicians, magicians, hot chocolate and card readings, book clubs, celebrations of life, veteran comedy nights, Rene’s trivia, and weddings. It is beyond humbling to have created a welcoming space and bring so many amazing individuals together under a common roof.
As I end this chapter and reflect on the past several years, I am filled with overwhelming gratitude that I had the opportunity to chase my dream, build a business from the ground up, and most of all be in the heart of a growing community.
“What we do in this life, echoes an eternity.”
Cheers, stay safe and stay strong!

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