Proving city’s not dry, whiskey maker wins bid
As was expected, the Park City Council on Thursday night divvied up the Watts property in Old Town, choosing a whiskey distillery as the anchor tenant.
The elected officials, on a 4-1 vote, authorized staffers to sell the Park Avenue-facing buildings of the Watts property to David Perkins, who plans to build and operate a whiskey distillery at the site. He plans to call the facility Quaking Aspen Distilleries. The price is $1,435,000.
The City Council had previously announced that they would negotiate with Perkins after picking his distillery proposal over a series of others for the property, where a landmark garage and a big house sit.
City Councilman Joe Kernan cast the ‘Nay’ vote. He said during the meeting that he is excited about a distillery opening on the property but wanted the deal to include restrictions guaranteeing that the government would be required to approve a change in the way the property is used if the distillery closes.
Kernan tried to have the vote delayed but no one else on the City Council supported his move.
Perkins said in an interview after the meeting that he wants to open the distillery, "ASAP, basically." He said, though, the earliest it could open is the spring of 2007. Repeating past statements, Perkins said it will be a unique business among ski towns.
"How many other ski areas have one," he said. "It’s a differentiator for us from Rocky Mountain ski areas."
Perkins said he has secured the financing needed for the distillery and City Hall staffers declared in a report released before the meeting that he "demonstrated the financial ability to complete the transaction . . ."
A closing date on the deal with Perkins will be delayed because the purchase will not be completed until the Planning Commission approves permits for a distillery to operate at the site. It could be months before the Planning Commission is prepared to vote on the distillery.
Before Thursday’s vote, Greg Schirf, from the Wasatch Brew Pub, praised the distillery plans, saying that the aroma from whiskey distilleries is not strong and smells like bakeries.
"It’s not an offensive smell. It’s a pleasant smell," Schirf said.
The City Councilors picked the distillery from a group of diverse ideas like a glass-blowing studio, a nightclub and a lodge for people who live in Promontory.
Michael Kaplan, the former owner of Main Street nightclub Mother Urban’s, wanted to turn the Watts property into a nightclub and performing-arts venue. He testified Thursday that the government did not widely publicize their intentions and charged that City Hall was secretive in making the decision.
"It’s not been an open process," he said.
But City Councilwoman Candy Erickson countered that the elected officials were not interested in a nightclub on the property and instead wanted a daytime attraction.
"Another nightclub was not what we were looking for," she said.
Mayor Dana Williams, refuting Kaplan, said the government’s plans to sell were well publicized. He also said the City Council did not accept the highest bid, which he said was related to the real-estate industry.
City Hall bought the Watts property for $920,000 in 1997. There had been occasional discussions in the few years afterward about how the property should be used. Recently, though, the government decided to pursue formalized proposals. In 2003 and 2004, the government was interested in selling the property to Peter Roberts, who wanted to launch a glass-blowing studio, but the deal was never finalized.
In other real-estate deals approved on Thursday, the City Council agreed to sell a house at 664 Woodside Ave. to Peter Silvero for $575,000, a property at 222 Grant Ave. to Kurt Peterson for $401,000 and a property at 148 Main St. to Trent Handsaker and Ryan McCormick for $450,000.
The deal for 664 Woodside Ave., which is part of the Watts property, is notable because the government did not choose to sell to David Bertinelli, who has rented the house for a decade. He was disgusted with the vote, telling the City Councilors they are all about money.
"The locals are what makes Park City special," he said.
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Park City leaders are scheduled to receive a briefing from the Summit County health director about the state of the novel coronavirus. Phil Bondurant’s appearance at a Park City Council meeting is slated less than two months before the scheduled opening of the ski season.