Good whiskey needs time to age and gather flavor.
After five years of gathering character, Denver Distillery is expected to open this October.
Ron Tarver, 69, has owned the building at 240 S. Broadway that also contains Bardo Coffee since 1986. When he got the idea to open his own distillery, he knew he had to see it through.
But his venture proved challenging.
“I thought it would be a cutesy idea,” he said. “Apparently it’s not an easy project.”
Tarver kept cycling back to the city for zoning, permits and codes.
“Back and forth, back and forth,” he said. “It’s been a long, long haul.”
Tarver argued for allowing a distillery on South Broadway’s commercial retail strip instead of in sanctioned industrial areas. He eventually won and paved the way for future operations like Archetype Distillery, which is moving in down the block into the old Kitty’s South theater.
Because Denver Distillery will make high-proof liquors that are flammable, there were health and safety considerations.
“Distilleries are like making a bomb,” Tarver said. “There are immense safety regulations.”
Denver Distillery will be a distillery pub – with a full bar that can sell more than just the alcohol it produces.
The distiller will make liqueurs, moonshine, rum and gin immediately, with plans for vodka, whiskey and absinth in the future.
Head distiller Chad Peters, formerly a carpenter, learned the trade through an internship with Downslope Distilling.
He used past trade skills to make parts of the pot still and repurposed an old butter melter as a masher.
Every detail of the new shop has a back story. Tarver sanded off plaster covering the brick walls and uncovered a hidden door behind the bar. The tables were made from old wine barrels, donated church pews are benches and the menu display is a slate chalkboard salvaged from Byers Middle School.
The 1,500-square-foot main floor will seat 50 people, with plans to add front patio seating.
The distillery plans to open Tuesday through Sunday, 11 a.m. to midnight or later and will host free scheduled tours.
Tarver has invested $850,000 of savings in the project. He said potential investors have approached him, but he remains the sole owner.
“I have spent too much money. But I like how it looks.”