The city’s first distillery has set its sights on some big expansion projects.
Long Road Distillers went in front of the Grand Rapids Planning Commission last week seeking approval for three projects, all of which gained unanimous approval.
The planned expansions include a full kitchen, a rooftop deck and an expanded production area.
Owners Kyle Van Strien and Jon O’Connor have recognized the need for expansion since prior to opening earlier this year but mulled the details for the past sixth months before heading to the city’s planning panel.
Van Strien, who is also a member of the planning commission, recused himself from the meeting.
“We knew the space we have would never be quite sufficient if everything went as we planned,” O’Connor said. “As we continue to grow after having our second still installed, it increased our potential capacity. And to fully optimize our equipment, expanding is necessitated.”
Enlargement of the production space is crucial if Long Road is to max out its capabilities and hit the distribution market it desires. Van Strien said he expects the distillery’s products to begin showing up on store and bar shelves within the next two months.
Current production space is cramped with equipment as well as with full and empty bottles, barrels, grain and fermenting liquid.
An addition would free up some elbowroom, Van Strien said.
Adding on to the back of the building would take up three of the business’s parking spots, but would double the footprint of the current production space with an additional 1,200 square feet.
“We’re hamstrung in how much we can do. It’s tight,” Van Strien said. “(An expansion) would enable us to store both finished and product in process, as well as potentially expand fermentation capabilities so we can fully optimize our equipment.”
Also in the works is a full kitchen. Currently, Long Road utilizes a partial kitchen to serve mostly small dishes. The owners said the kitchen is limited and restricts potential business during lunch and dinner times.
The proposed kitchen would be constructed in the back portion of a building at 539 Leonard St. NW, which also is owned by the distillery’s investment group and currently is occupied by Chicago Style Gyro. The gyro restaurant will stay in the building by consolidating its storage.
The project will add 1,200 square feet of kitchen space with cook-tops, hoods, walk-in coolers, dry storage and a dish-washing area.
A proposed rooftop deck will seat 60 people and have limited hours, O’Connor said. In the proposal, Long Road notes the deck is in line with recent projects by neighbors Mitten Brewing Co. and Two Scotts Barbecue.
Long Road expects its upstairs overflow seating area and event space to be finished by the start of ArtPrize next month and likely will host live music during the annual art competition.
O’Connor said because of the business’s alcohol use, any change must go in front of the planning commission. Instead of getting the projects approved one at a time, they sought to move them all through at once.
Van Strien said the projects will cost “a lot of money,” but the exact amount is an unknown at this point. He also said the projects aren’t imminent, and this is just a proactive move on the company’s part. The expansions will not be concurrent, and the first one won’t start until next spring. O’Connor said that’s because most West Michigan contractors are booked through the end of the year.
“Rather than go back multiple times, we thought we’d get it all done at once so, as funds become available, we can do them,” he said.