GRAND HAVEN, MI – Long Road Distillers is coming to Grand Haven despite being turned away from a city-owned property earlier this month.
The distillery will take over about half of the space currently occupied by The Copper Post restaurant in downtown Grand Haven, officials with both businesses said.
“It’s got really nice charm and a vibrant retail district,” said Kyle VanStrien, co-owner of Long Road, of why the company is determined to have a Grand Haven location. “We think we have something to bring to the community in terms of craft cocktails and our award-winning spirits.”
Earlier in March, city council voted down a lease that would have put the tasting room in the city-owned, now-vacant Grand Trunk railroad depot on the downtown waterfront.
The goal is to be open by this summer, he said. Long Road expects to offer handcrafted cocktails, spirit samples, special tasting events, merchandise, bottles and maybe food.
Long Road’s distillery, main tasting room and restaurant are in Grand Rapids. There’s also a tasting room in Boyne City.
During summers, customers flock to the waterfront and business in Grand Rapids slows, which makes Grand Haven a perfect complement, VanStrien said. The company has been working for two years to open in the beach town.
Grand Haven City Council unanimously approved a distillery tasting room license at 102 Washington Ave. for Long Road Distillers during a meeting on Tuesday, March 18. The license application still needs state approval through the Michigan Liquor Control Commission.
The city council narrowly rejected leasing the historic depot space to Long Road, with some members objecting to the idea of a distillery so close to the waterfront stadium.
It’s “unfortunate” that the depot will sit empty, VanStrien said. But as soon as the lease was denied, downtown Grand Haven business owners reached out with alternatives. That included the owners of The Copper Post.
“It’s humbling to have that kind of outpouring of support,” he said. “We were surprised at the number of opportunities that weren’t right in front of us – that weren’t listed.”
The Copper Post, 100 Washington Ave., opened during June 2018 in a building that has seen a revolving door of bars and restaurants since 2014 when the Rosebud closed after 12 years. The Rosebud was followed by short stints of Joe’s Wooden Nickle and Grand Haven Brew House.
Business has been good so far, said Cooper Post operating partner Mike Thorp, but he’s not concerned about the loss of seating that will come with leasing or selling a large portion of its indoor space to Long Road. The details of the agreement haven’t been worked out yet, he said.
The Copper Post will keep its patio that has seating for about 75 in addition to the indoor bar area that’s immediately inside the door at the corner of Washington Avenue and First Street.
It is expected that Long Road customers will enter through a door facing Washington Avenue that was previously used but is now covered by the building façade, VanStrien said.
Long Road is expected to be in what is currently an additional dining room for The Copper Post. The space has its own bar and has in the past hosted music entertainment, but does not have its own kitchen.
Long Road and Copper Post officials said they hope the distillery will serve food although it’s not clear if it will be Copper Post’s food or something else.
An archway that connects The Copper Post bar to the future home of Long Road is expected to have a door when the distillery opens, Thorp said.
The distillery will “bolster our brand” and “raise the bar” for Grand Haven’s spirit offerings, he said of why the restaurant owners wanted Long Road in town enough to offer their own space. “It’s a win-win.”