Ron Tarver has owned the Broadway building a block north of Alameda that houses Bardo Coffee House for some time, but when he was looking for a new tenant to replace a business that vacated after ten years, he ended up drawing up plans for his own venture instead: a distillery.
"Several years back, you couldn't make your own spirits, but the law has changed," says Tarver. Intrigued, he took a trip. "Last summer, I drove around Colorado to all of the distilleries and sat in a lot of them and tasted a lot of stuff," he explains. "I kind of like the whole process, and it's like magic the way these guys are doing it. I have the space, I kind of like working on things, and I decided I'm going to do it myself."
He pulled the trigger, setting plans for Denver Distillery in action and picking up one still -- which is sitting in his living room -- while building out the space. "I'd like to make the standards," he says. "I'd like to make vodka because I can infuse it and play with it; I'd like to make a whiskey, but it has to sit there for a couple of years; and I'd like to make cordials" -- for example, something with damiana, a "natural aphrodisiac."
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While Tarver is working out the kinks of distilling, he'll enlist a friend who, he says, has "a better palate than I do" to make his products. And the owner also emphasizes that he isn't interested in building the next giant Colorado distillery. Rather, he's trying to create a neighborhood place that pulls in his community. "Most distillers are back-end marketing; they're making a pretty bottle and trying to compete with Stranahan's, who set the bar," he claims. "All these guys are trying to set the new bar -- and sell a lot."
But Tarver doesn't share that philosophy." I don't care," he insists." If it sells, fine, but I want the kids that are in my area to come in. I want them to see the stills, see the product, see how it's made, see that there's nothing going into it that's garbage," he says, adding that he "wants a tasting room more than anything -- I want them to come in and enjoy the space." He's already had a lot of volunteers offer to help with construction, and he's had people offer to help fund the project, too, though he says he's not interested in that. "I don't want to put anyone else at risk," he admits.
As for a timeline, though, Tarver isn't really in a rush. "I'm letting it unfold," he says. "The earliest would be September."