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Longtime Hell’s Kitchen bar House of Brews has poured its last pint. It closed last week — another local business victim of the pandemic. We spoke to General Manager and partner Carolina Del Pilar Rivera and Patrick Schmidt from Hell’s Kitchen Hospitality (which also owns Mom’s Kitchen and Dolly Varden) about the closure.
Patrick said that it was a sad announcement and a difficult decision for the team. “We have recently been reflecting on the history of the bar, I can’t help but think of all of the memories and countless amazing nights we have shared together at the House of Brews,” he told us.
Patrick’s involvement with the bar was first as a customer, he recalled: “It has been a fixture of both my personal life and my career for a decade-plus. I am equally thankful for my time spent there — first as a craft beer enthusiastic patron, and then later enjoying the opportunity to join the management team.”
Hell’s Kitchen Hospitality (HKH) has been running bars in Hell’s Kitchen and Astoria since 1998. The original House of Brews opened on W51st Street in 1999 and closed in September 2019. The space has now transformed into Dolly Varden. During the pandemic, HKH shuttered the New York Beer Company on W44th Street. Last year, the group created a Hell’s Kitchen recipe book as a fundraiser for the Restaurant Workers’ Community Fund.
For Carolina, who bought into the business as a partner 6 years ago, it’s been tough managing it through two years of the pandemic. “I was lucky to have the opportunity to buy into the business. I’ve learned a lot and have loved making people happy. COVID has been so hard. The rules changed all the time. It was stressful thinking we could be fined $5,000 for something, when our sales were $1,000. In the early days, we might open and sell one beer. We had issues with homeless people and twice we had break-ins. Where we are on Restaurant Row, we couldn’t build outside,” she said.
The final blow came as Omicron hit New York in the holiday season — which should be the busiest time for bars and restaurants. “We had so many cancellations for holiday parties. People got scared again,” she said.
However, Carolina is ready for her next challenge. She’s heading back to Chile for a month to reconnect with family and will then return to New York to find a new opportunity. “I came here in 2007 to follow the American Dream. I first worked in a McDonald’s in Alabama, then headed to New York with little money (or English) and was a hostess at Dallas BBQ in Times Square. Before I became a partner at House of Brews, I spent six years at Mercury Bar on 9th Avenue. I started as a hostess and daytime server but wanted to be a bartender. I was told: ‘you’d have to be Irish or tall and blonde’ to do that (which I am not!). A few years later, I was the head bartender,” she recalled proudly.
For Patrick, the closure is a chance to look at the Restaurant Row space afresh. “As disappointing as the closure news is, we are very excited about the opportunity to breathe new life into the space. Stay tuned for a fresh concept and upgraded design coming to W46th Street in the near future,” he told us.