Distillery, a ‘Rolls Royce,’ celebrates debut
November 17, 2009
People passing by High West Distillery in Old Town in the last little while caught glimpses through the windows of what the place would look like once it opens.
Parkites on Friday will have the opportunity to tour the building as High West opens its doors in a historic Park Avenue property close to the bottom of the Town Lift. The distillery, one of the more unique businesses to open in recent years, is scheduled to hold its grand opening at 1:30 p.m. with a celebration and comments from speakers like Mayor Dana Williams and state liquor regulators.
David Perkins, the owner of High West and the figure who shepherded the distillery to approvals from City Hall and the state government, said in an interview early in the week the results of the work are fabulous.
"This is a Rolls Royce, A-plus job," Perkins said about the restoration of a historic garage and historic house into the distillery and an accompanying saloon and restaurant.
The property, purchased from City Hall in a deal valued at just more than $1.4 million, has been painstakingly refurbished. A small, glass-enclosed space has been added that shows off the distilling equipment to passers-by. Inside, the space has been transformed into room after room of rich furnishings, a stunning contrast to the disheveled look of some of the rooms before the renovation, which Perkins has said cost approximately $4.3 million.
"What worked? I think the whole thing," Perkins said.
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He said he is especially proud of the renovation of what was once an old garage, one of Park City’s historic landmarks. Between the garage and connected house, more than 75 percent of the original materials were kept, Perkins said.
The distilling equipment is expected to start making alcohol on the premises on Friday. The restaurant is scheduled to open for dinner on Nov. 28, followed by the start of lunchtime meals in the middle of December.
When High West is fully operational, close to 50 people will work at the site between the distillery and the restaurant. High West’s line of liquor consists of three labels of whiskey and two of vodka. Perkins said another whiskey will begin selling within a week. A High West store on the premises sells the liquor, an arrangement made possible through a decision by state alcohol regulators, and souvenirs. He said the labels are "world-renown spirits."
High West is touting itself as the first distillery in Utah since 1870 and as the only one in the world with a restaurant people are able to ski to. Perkins and others contend that High West is unique among Park City’s mountain-town competitors and offers an intriguing off-the-slopes experience.
They also say the distillery could convince people from outside the state that Utahns are not exclusively teetotalers, a branding that tourism officials have tried to counter repeatedly.
"I hope a lot of people get over the alcohol thing and come to town," Perkins said.