D.C.'s first cheesemaker Sona Creamery closed on April 11.
Co-owner Genevieve O'Sullivan says the restaurant, wine bar, and creamery ultimately couldn't support the rent. She adds that Sona struggled as the neighborhood's restaurant scene became more and more saturated over the last couple years. "It definitely changes cash flow," she says.
Sona first opened near Eastern Market in January 2014. It took the Genevieve O'Sullivan and her husband and business partner Conan O'Sullivan a year and a half of navigating regulations and buildout roadblocks to finally get their cheesemaking operation underway. Because D.C. has no agriculture department to oversee cheesemaking, the couple petitioned for variances in the food code from the Department of Health in order to be allowed to age and cure their cheese.
O'Sullivan says it "absolutely would have changed everything" if they had been able to get their cheesemaking operation up and running earlier to build that additional revenue stream. Sona only sold its cheese at the restaurant and bar, but the O'Sullivans had at one point been in talks with Whole Foods and other markets.
Genevieve has already taken a new job doing communications and marketing for CropLife America, and Conan is taking a breather to figure out his next move. The couple, who moved to D.C. from Washington state in 2012, plan to stay in the District and, at the very least, continue making cheese at home.
Read more about Sona's cheesemaking operation here.
Take a look at the note the restaurant posted on Facebook:
We are sad to announce we will be closing our doors Monday, April 11, 2016.
After 3 years of working the regulatory chain to get raw milk in the District, and become the first cheese creamery, we were paying rent for space that wasn't supporting itself. Unfortunately, this has made it impossible to remain open.
Even though Sona's concept took too long to fully implement, we are proud of what we were able to accomplish.
First commercial cheese creamery in the history of DC
Were able to bring first raw milk into the District since 1952
Maintained four stars on Yelp
2015 Slow Food award winner
2014 Hilly Awards runner up for best new restaurant and best new business on the Hill
Numerous write ups by food writers and columns
Thrillist top new DC restaurants of 2014
We are grateful for the memories and wonderful people we met along this journey. Thank you for all of your support.
Photo by Darrow Montgomery