Long Road Distillers

On Monday, December 5, Long Road is partnering with a bunch of our friends (The Peoples Cider Co., Creston Brewery, Two Scott’s BBQ, The Grand Rapids Chapter of the United States Bartenders Guild, Local First of West Michigan, and SideCar Studios) to throw the first Annual Grand Rapids Repeal Day Party to celebrate the end of the 18th Amendment and the fall of Prohibition. As a bit of a pre-game to Monday’s party, we thought a bit of background might be useful in understanding the gravity of the Day! So, in honor of the 21st Amendment to the United States Constitution, 21 fast facts about the rise and fall of Prohibition:

  1. The 18th Amendment to the United States Constitution was ratified on January 16, 1919, effectively banning the manufacture, distribution, and sale of alcoholic beverages in the U.S.
  2. The State of Michigan had already enacted their own prohibition on liquor 2 years earlier, on May 1, 1917
  3. The Eighteenth Amendment was the crowning achievement of the temperance movement, a social effort against the consumption of alcohol which began in the early 19th Century
  4. The temperance movement was strong in Grand Rapids and Michigan as a whole with the headquarters of the Woman’s Christian Temperance Union in Petoskey, Michigan and the establishment of a Grand Rapids Chapter.
  5. The National Prohibition Act was enacted to carry out the intent of the 18th Amendment.
  6. It was known informally as the Volstead Act, named after Andrew Volstead, Chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, who help enact the legislation.
  7. The Volstead Act aimed to: prohibit intoxicating beverages; regulate the manufacture, sale, or transport of intoxicating liquor; and ensure an ample supply of alcohol and promote its use in scientific research.
  8. The Volstead Act did NOT specifically prohibit the use of intoxicating liquor.
  9. The Act defined “intoxicating liquor” as any beverage containing more than 0.5% alcohol by volume.
  10. Under Prohibition, crime rates skyrocketed as gangs took over the production, importation and distribution of alcohol
  11. One of the most infamous gangsters of the Prohibition era was Chicago’s Al Capone.
  12. Al Capone has West Michigan ties, having owned a hide-out cottage on Gun Lake and a favorite corner booth at Nick Fink’s, Grand Rapids’ oldest bars.
  13. Canada became the primary source for illicit alcohol in Michigan, and the Detroit-Windsor connection was the hub of bootlegging activities.
  14. There were an estimated 16,000 to 25,000 speakeasies operating in Detroit in 1928
  15. The Michigan State Police found 800 people inside on speakeasy in Detroit, the Deutches Haus, including Detroit Mayor John Smith, Congressman Robert Clancy and Sheriff Edward Stein.
  16. Congress proposed the 21st Amendment on February 20, 1933
  17. The 21st Amendment is the only Amendment to the U.S. Constitution that repeals a prior amendment.
  18. The 21st Amendment is the only Amendment to the U.S. Constitution that was ratified by state ratifying conventions, rather than being offered to the state legislatures for ratification.
  19. Michigan was the first of the 48 states to respond to the amendment and ratified it at a “state ratifying convention” on April 10, 1933.
  20. Ratification of the 21st Amendment was completed on December 5, 1933.
  21. Section 2 of the Amendment gives states absolute control over alcoholic beverages, with some states maintaining a prohibition on alcohol long after the 21st Amendment was ratified (Mississippi remained “dry” until 1966 and Kansas prohibited public bars until 1987!)


The 21st Amendment to the United States Constitution reads:

Section 1. The eighteenth article of amendment to the Constitution of the United States is hereby repealed.

Section 2. The transportation or importation into any State, Territory, or possession of the United States for delivery or use therein of intoxicating liquors, in violation of the laws thereof, is hereby prohibited.

Section 3. This article shall be inoperative unless it shall have been ratified as an amendment to the Constitution by conventions in the several States, as provided in the Constitution, within seven years from the date of the submission hereof to the States by the Congress.


To celebrate the ratification of the 21st Amendment and the repeal of the 18th Amendment, join us Monday, December 5 from 8 pm to Midnight and enjoy cocktails, beer, cider, bbq and live music at 642 Bridge St NW, Grand Rapids, MI 49504. Here’s a link to the Facebook event page. Here’s a link to purchase your tickets for the event in advance. Highlights of the evening include:

  1. Cocktails from Long Road Distillers
  2. Beer from Creston Brewery
  3. Hard Cider from Peoples Cider Company
  4. BBQ from Two Scott’s BBQ Food Truck
  5. Live Music with The Bootstrap Boys and Jesse Ray and the Carolina Catfish

Dress in your Sunday Best and party like it’s 1933! Cheers!

Long Road Distillers

What started as an idea more than 18 months ago has finally come to fruition for two local entrepreneurs.

At 5 p.m. tomorrow, May 28, Jon O’Connor and Kyle Van Strien will officially open the doors to Long Road Distillers, Grand Rapids’ first craft distillery.

Located at 537 Leonard St NW in a renovated 19th century building, Long Road will begin offering “grain to glass” vodka, gin and whisky, along with small plates prepared by executive chef Scott Seese.

Everything at Long Road centers around the importance of making spirits on site from beginning to end. Whole grains from nearby Heffron farms are mashed, then distilled and filtered in two gigantic stills that can be seen from the bar and tasting room through floor-to-ceiling glass walls. The entire fermentation process takes at least 5 to 6 days, and O’Connor believes these are the first two legal stills ever used in Grand Rapids.

The distillery is part of the continuing revitalization of the Leonard & Quarry intersection that also includes Mitten Brewing and Two Scotts BBQ, and the two Long Road owners have significant West Side roots. Both live on the West Side, and both were board members of the West Grand Neighborhood Association. O’Connor also worked on the Welcome West initiative.

The building itself has been a bit of a neighborhood anchor, operating as a dry goods store for nearly 70 years until the 1950s or 60s before becoming a Harley dealership, and more recently, a clothing store. O’Connor and Van Strien are also working to convert the upstairs area that was formerly apartment space into additional seating for 100 that can be used for special events or to catch live music. They also plan on offering tours in the future.

While admiring the stills and the spirits, hungry customers can also order off a menu that has a decidedly West Side mix of Polish entrees like kielbasa and sauerkraut, along with classic Mexican dishes that will be added within the next couple of weeks.

Bottles of Long Road spirits will be available to go and O’Connor and Van Strien plan to distribute to Grand Rapids and beyond down the road. They’ve already rolled out a version of a mug club called the Wayfarer’s Guild, where members can receive perks like individually-numbered wooden coasters, discounts, private tastings and tours, swag and more.

Following tomorrow’s debut, Long Road will be open 4 p.m. until midnight on Mondays through Thursdays; noon to midnight on Fridays and Saturdays; and will also be open on Sundays. – Full Story.

Josh Depenbrock, May 27, 2015

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