When Hank's Oyster Bar owner Jamie Leeds learned about D.C.'s new "distillery pub" law, she applied for permits that would allow for her Capitol Hill and Dupont locations to produce their own alcohol on-site. Initially, she hoped the restaurants could make their own house gin or vodka for specialty cocktails.
But Leeds has since decided to call off those plans. "It turns out the permitting process is really expensive," she says. The distillery pub permit costs $7,500 annually, which is cost-prohibitive if you're not bottling and selling the booze. Leeds says it's not worth it for the small-scale experiments she intended for Hank's.
The permit also costs more than any other alcohol manufacturing license in D.C. Distilleries have to pay the District a $6,000 annual fee, while breweries pay $5,000. Wineries would only have to pay $1,500.
"I believe the reason a manufacturer’s license costs less is that the license is more limiting as it relates to the hours that sales may be conducted and the products that can be sold," says Alcoholic Beverage Regulation Administration spokeswoman Jessie Cornelius.
The "distillery pub" permit became available in the spring of 2014. It allows for restaurants, bars, nightclubs, hotels, and other "multipurpose facilities" to manufacture alcohol on or immediately adjacent to their sites. They can then sell the product to patrons and wholesalers.
Aside from Hank's Oyster Bar, District Distillery is the only other business to apply for a distillery pub permit from ABRA. The Washington Business Journal reported last September that the whiskey distillery and restaurant was aiming to open at 14th and U streets NW, but there have been no developments since then. District Distillery's website still reads "COMING SOON – 2013."
For more on D.C. changing distilling laws, read this week's Y&H column.
Photo by Jessica Sidman