To expand its offerings for drink and food, Longmont’s Abbott & Wallace Distilling is transitioning into a distillery pub.
Abbott & Wallace, a downtown Longmont taproom and maker of craft spirits, is early in its journey towards obtaining a Colorado distillery pub license. If granted one, the distillery plans on adding a kitchen, food menu and adding wine and local beers to its drink selection.
Though the local distillery’s taproom pulled the most revenue since it opened its doors in 2017, the pandemic has dwindled its visitors and put an emphasis on Abbott & Wallace’s distribution, according to co-founder and general manager John A. Young.
“The community certainly rallied behind us and supported us and got us through the pandemic but we're still kind of still struggling to come back. We have not hit our pre pandemic sales levels in the tasting room. Our distribution sales are still slowly growing but it's not enough to carry our downtown retail space,” Young said. “So you know that’s when we started thinking maybe we should switch to a distillery pub and that would allow us to serve beer and wine and have food in addition to our handcrafted spirits.”
Revenue for the taproom in 2020 fell 22% from the previous year, but distribution continued to grow 30.5%, according to Young. Abbott & Wallace’s taproom saw a rebound last year, and Young believes adding beer, wine and food can get it back to its pre-pandemic business.
Since its first full year of business in 2018, Abbott & Wallace’s distribution business grew from 17.2% of its sales to 37.5% as of 2021. Its growing distribution of wholesale liquor and introduction of canned cocktails during the pandemic, got Abbott & Wallace through its slowed taproom business. However, it also kept the distilling company from pursuing a distillery pub license.
Though Colorado created distillery pub licenses in 2015, Abbott & Wallace didn’t consider it until a change to Colorado’s distillery pub liquor production limits last year.
A law passed last summer and took effect in September 2021, increased the amount of alcohol vintner’s restaurant and distillery pubs can produce on its premises. Distillery pubs' limit of 45,000 liters per calendar year changed to 875,000 liters. Young said Abbott & Wallace manufactured too much to be considered for a license before the new law.
If Abbott & Wallace is approved for a distillery pub license, the company can revitalize its taproom while supporting its growing distribution as a small craft distillery.
“We can still make our canned cocktails and have a pub license,” Young said. “We're competing in this marketplace with giant spirit companies so you know, we're growing. It's a slow, hard process, so this will really help us solidify our location in Longmont and help us grow into the future.”
To become a distillery pub, businesses go through a similar process as a brewery pub with public hearings, permitting and approval from the city and state. Abbott & Wallace is currently collecting signatures for a “Needs and Desires Hearing,” a requirement where the business demonstrates to the city that their goods and services are wanted by locals. It’s an early step in a longer process towards a distillery pub license.
Abbott & Wallace are aiming for 300 signatures by Thursday. Along with in-person signature collecting, there’s a place at the bar for customers to sign. Young said a hearing will follow after its signature deadline.
“We have a petition on the bar, and you know, people want to come down and see the space or have any questions and would like to sign the petition at the distillery, we encourage them to do so,” he said.
Distilleries can serve food without a distillery pub license, and Abbott & Wallace has a small menu of snacks including an antipasto tray, pizza, nuts and crackers. However, distillery pubs require 15% of income from food sales. And having more food options might encourage customers to have a meal and stick around for another round of cocktails.
If Abbott & Wallace receives its license it will undergo remodeling. The distillery plans on turning its members-only lounge space into a kitchen.
The menu would start out simple with fried chicken and pulled pork dishes with housemade sauces. Young said Abbott & Wallace are working with the Longmont dumpling food cart Shinkyu-No, and wants to steam dumplings in house as a permanent menu item.
Eventually, Young said he wants to add salads and vegetarian options.
“As we launch this, hopefully, it provides some growth and we'll be able to add more options and have a more full-time kitchen staff as well.” Young said.
Abbott & Wallace wants to add a house red and white wine to the menu. Young said if they are approved for their distillery pub license, they would have three or four beers on tap. He said they want to keep it local, naming Longmont’s Left Hand Brewing Company and 300 Suns Brewing as possible featured breweries.
Young hopes transitioning to a distillery pub will open the taproom up to more events and a wider audience.
“We love the hospitality aspect of the industry and this will allow us to host more events, which we're really excited about because not everyone drinks hard alcohol,” Young said. “So I think it'll look and feel the same and we just want to have more offerings for folks.”