The New Hope Planning Commission on Jan. 7 recommended approval of the appropriate permits for a business to open a distillery in the former Mountain Mudd cafe spot at 7530 42nd Ave. N.
The recommendation was quickly followed by a staff proposal to add the sale of the product on Sundays, which had been overlooked during a host of Sunday sales approvals in 2017. While Sunday sales for on- and off-sale liquor and beer sales had been approved, Community Development Specialist Brandon Bell said allowing the sales of distilled liquor in microdistilleries and cocktail rooms would create a more “consistent and conforming” city code.
The Planning Commission unanimously recommended the city code amendment. Both recommendations are subject to final approval by the city council at the Monday, Jan. 27, meeting.
Business owners speak
The distillery, which would make, serve and sell small amounts of hard alcohols, would be the first of its kind in New Hope.
Business owners Amy Hotchkiss and Alan Davis said they would like distill the product on Mondays and Tuesdays and open the cocktail room to the public Wednesday through Sunday. Davis explained that, due to safety concerns, the distillery is not able to simultaneously produce and sell the product, per federal law. Hotchkiss added for that reason, distilleries often opt to distill rather than sell on Sundays, but they are hoping to attract private party reservations on Sundays.
The pair said that to begin with, the distillery would produce flavored gins and vodkas. Davis added that they were “interested in rum,” and a long-term dream would be to produce a whiskey. However, whiskey is, at minimum, a two-year distilling process.
At the same time, Davis said the business would offer gins and vodkas that “drink like a whiskey, for people that are interested in that.”
The business owners clarified that they would not produce or sell beer, which is prohibited in their license. The bar is not equipped with a kitchen, and plans were to partner with local food businesses for order-in or delivery services.
Jeff Alger, community development specialist, said the approvals at the city level were the “first step in a fairly long process” for the business owners, who next will seek state and federal licensing.
Facade improvements needed
A few upgrades to the location were included in the permit, like the repainting of faded parking lot lines. That responsibility would fall to the owner of the building, who is leasing to A Davis Distilling LLC. The commission heard that the building owner had been notified, had added his signature to the request, but had not responded to the city about the improvements needed for the building.
Other ordered improvements include repair of outdoor awnings, creation of a barrier should the business move forward with use of the patio space, removal of the drive-through awning to reduce confusion, and installation of a “do not enter” sign onto 42nd Avenue. Traffic will be directed to flow in from 42nd Avenue and exit in the northwest corner of that parking lot onto Quebec Avenue. Algier said some of those improvements were not tied directly to the conditional use permit issued to the business owners, so the project was not hindered.
Davis said that build-out of the space would be minimal, as the former coffee shop set-up was similar to a distillery.
Commission Chair Tom Schmidt joked that he hoped the New Hope distillery would be “just as cool” as the distillery in Eden Prairie.
“Oh, I think it’s going to be way more cool,” said Davis.