By Julia Gsell
The popular Lexington restaurant Brix° has closed, the owner says.
The week before Thanksgiving, silverware and glasses sat on Brix’s eight tables in the dark. A sign taped to the door read: “Due to family matters, Brix is currently closed.”
The restaurant and wine bar served pan-Mediterranean small plates featuring local ingredients. Since its opening in 2009 during Washington and Lee University’s Parents Weekend, Brix°has been a favorite among W&L faculty and students and Lexingtonians alike.
Its owner, Hunter Smith, has more than 20 years experience in the restaurant business. Smith previously helped open and manage several of Richmond’s most highly acclaimed restaurants, including Azzurro Restaurant, Patina Grille and Can Can Brasserie, as well as Zagara in Fredricksburg. Before launching Brix, Smith served as the Grill Operations Manager for The Country Club of Virginia, and more recently, as the Service Manager for Lexington Golf and Country Club.
Smith said his decision to close the restaurant was spurred by various things. The building, owned by a private LLC, has been for sale for about a year, listed with J.F. Brown for $215,000. When the building first went on the market, Smith said he was not in the position to buy it. Even if he was, he would not have bought it at the price it was offered, he said. Smith said there have been several parties interested in the property, but only one was interested in “keeping us here,” and that didn’t work out as a sale.
Smith’s lease continues until May, so he could operate until then if he wanted to, he said. But three weeks ago, when some personal matters arose in Richmond, Smith decided it was time to close.
Smith said his decision was “a matter of me going — okay — this is probably going to happen [the building will sell], and let me figure out what is going on in my life.”
People who knew Smith said this was not the first time he had temporarily shut down Brix.
Smith acknowledged having some problems running the restaurant and suggested that looking at court records would throw some light on things.
Court documents dating back to 2010 — only a year after Brix opened — show Smith failed to pay numerous employer and sales taxes. Smith has owed the Virginia Employment Commission a total of $1,879 in employer taxes and $16,850 in sales taxes over the last five years, according to court records supporting a state lien on his business.
Smith said business in Lexington is always up and down — with weeknights being especially tough.
“We’re at your mercy,” he said, speaking to a W&L student.
Smith said he and head chef Nathan Fountain are sad to let Brix go.
In all his time in the restaurant business, “we have never seen the satisfaction that we have here,” Smith said.
Smith said he hopes to open Brix’s doors to all its former employees and fans for one final meal and brunch the weekend of Dec. 19.