Raising a Glass: Craft Distillery Proposes Tasting Room and Event Space

Raising a Glass: Craft Distillery Proposes Tasting Room and Event Space

A Northbrook distiller of craft liquors hopes to expand its space and open a tasting room, a novel business model that builds on the growing popularity of artisanal food and beverage products. Trustees were intrigued by the preliminary proposal from Almighty Spirits Distiller presented at a recent Board meeting, despite questions about zoning and licensing restrictions.

Almighty Spirits currently distills, bottles and stores its whiskey, gin, and other liquors in a 1,200 square foot facility at 1904 Techny Road. The company now sells wholesale to bars and restaurants, but sees potential for development through a tasting room with accessory retail sales. According to a statement submitted to the Trustees by the company, “When we signed the lease for this space, we had hopes we would grow into more of a local attraction — bringing customers to Northbrook to see our processes and meet us.”

That original vision would see fruition in the opening of a tasting room/event space, made possible by the business’s expansion into the adjacent 1906 Techny space and enlarging the company’s overall space to over 2,900 feet. The tasting room would be open to the public and be a focal point for tours and corporate events. The company would like to offer retail sales of their spirits through the tasting room, which ultimately would be open from 10:00 a.m. to midnight Monday through Thursday and until 2:00 a.m. on Friday and Saturday.

At the April 23 meeting, Village staff noted that the proposal would require adjustments to the property’s zoning treatment. Currently zoned I-1, the landlord for the distillery space and surrounding property has applied for a rezoning to ICS, allowing for a broader mix of land uses within the district. This new categorization would allow retail sales through the tasting room, pending liquor license approval.

In addition, the proposal exceeds the 2,500 square foot maximum set for craft food & beverage businesses allowed under a 2013 zoning code interpretation. Tom Poupard, the Village’s Director of Development & Planning Services, explained that the size increase could be accommodated through a staff modification to the interpretation, by amendment to the Zoning Code to add craft food and beverage as a permitted or special use in ICS, or by amendment to the Zoning Code to lift restrictions on food and beverage activities.

Trustees found the proposal interesting, but voiced concerns about the hours of operation, and definitions of what would constitute a “taste.” President Sandy Frum noted that those terms would be set as part of the business’s liquor license. Overall, the Board seemed to welcome the idea of this unique business proposal. At the close of discussion, Trustee Karagianis referred Almighty Spirits’ proposal to the Plan Commission “with very supportive comments.”