Long Road Distillers

You can soon add craft spirits to Grand Rapids’ craft brewing reputation. The Grand Rapids City planning commission unanimously approved West Michigan’s second craft distillery on Thursday.

Long Road Distillers leased space on West Leonard Street and now they have the go-ahead to establish a micro-distillery, tasting room, and special event space.

Long Road Distillers will open this fall at 537 Leonard Street NW, across Quarry Avenue from Mitten Brewing Co.

In co-ownerKyle Van Strien’s eyes, Mitten Brewing Company is a Westside success story.

“They were an example of, they’ve done a great job, they’ve made it work,” he said.

Now he stands across the street from the Mitten, fresh of the city’s unanimous decision to move forward with his plans, inspired to turn an old brick building into a booming distillery. He and co-owner Jon O’Connor are long-time, active Westside residents.

“We’ve just been really passionate about the Westside, we love the Westside,” said O’Connor.

The city gave them the unanimous go-ahead to renovate the 8-thousand-square-foot space. The clothing company will move out, making way for a tasting room and special events space.

“We’re the first grain-to-glass distillery in the city,” he said.

“There will be barrel storage here, fermenters laying the wall, and our still will sit up in the tasting room and be glassed off so people can see it when they walk in,” he said.

Van Strien is excited for what customers will taste at the new Long Road Distillers.

“A really high-quality vodka, a gin, a clear whisky, and then a malted gin,” he said.

It’s all coming from Michigan farmlands. Flavored spirits will come later, along with distribution.

But the immediate concern now is parking. Some neighbors and businesses say there isn’t enough already and they went before the city with their concerns. Jamie Taylor represented her business, Grand Rapids Hydroponics, which is directly across the street from the Mitten.

“Their customers park in front of our store and they’ll be there eating lunch and stuff and it limits us because we have to carry those out and load their cars. And if they’re parks blocks away it can be a big issue,” she said.

Van Strien says they’re working to accommodate.

“Our deliveries, coming through our parking lot in the morning, by re-surfacing our parking lot and re-orienting it so there’s more parking spots.

He and O’Conner will add 11 spots behind the distillery and the church parking lot across the street will lease 25 spots. It already leases to the Mitten. They expect a crowd; it remains to be seen how congested the area will get.

“There’s a bus stop right there,” he said. “People can take the bus to get here and to go home.”

The owners say music will be an acoustic; nothing too loud. There’s a few restrictions. The bar area must close by midnight Sunday through Thursday.

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